Every Saturday lunch when I was growing up, my mother made chicken sandwiches with the leftover roast chicken and challah from our Friday night Shabbat dinner. She slathered the bread with mayonnaise mixed with mustard.
On Tuesday nights, she served steamed artichokes or asparagus. And to entice my sister and me into eating our vegetables, she put out little dishes of mayonnaise mixed with ketchup. If the adage were true, that “you are what you eat,” I’d have been a bulbous, blue-lidded jar of Hellmann’s.
Of course, I didn’t realize mayonnaise came in any other form than from a jar. Until I went to cooking school. There, I learned to make mayo by hand, from scratch: starting with 12 egg yolks and a spoonful of mustard in a bowl.
With one hand I would whisk the eggs vigorously, and with the other, I slowly drizzled in the oil, one gallon in total. When the oil and eggs would miraculously come together into a homogenous, thick and creamy spread –- in other words, emulsified -- I had mayo, and a sore shoulder. If I got impatient, and drizzled too fast, the mayonnaise would "break" -- the oil and eggs would separate.
Some might say that I’m impatient, for I quickly mastered the art of fixing broken mayonnaise.
After I'd added the first cup of oil, it would be clear if the emulsification was working: if the mixture was still thin (as in oil-thin) and grainy, it had broken, and I had to start over. Not completely from scratch, though. In a clean bowl, I put 1/4 cup of warm (body-temperature) water. I used the broken mayo-mess and incorporated it as if it were still oil: slowly drizzling it into the water while I whisked frantically. Of course, when fixing broken mayo, I learned to drizzle extra slowly. When the broken mayo was incorporated, I continued adding the rest of the oil. When the mayo would start to thicken, I'd know that my repair had worked.
To make your mayonnaise, the food processor works as well as, if not better than, a whisk. For small batches, using only one or two egg yolks, you will need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water so that the blades can catch the yolks and start the emulsification process.
Did you know that the pusher of the food processor has a little hole in the bottom? It's designed especially for people like me who drizzle too fast. If you fill the pusher with oil it will slowly drop into the food processor at just the right pace. It’s almost fool-proof, but still double check after the first 1/4 cup; stop the motor to make sure the mayo is getting thick.
Homemade mayonnaise lasts for a week in the fridge. If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own, the fine folks at Hellmann’s offer the next best thing (some may argue the best thing): all-natural and free of the beleaguered high fructose corn syrup. Whole Foods sells a canola-based mayo, but in my opinion the oil tastes rancid.
With a base mayonnaise, you can make dozens of different sauces. For crudités, I mix in tons of fresh tarragon and scallions to make a green goddess dip. For corn fritters or a turkey sandwich, I mix in chipotles, cilantro and red onions. Try capers and tarragon in a base for crab cakes. The possibilities are limitless.
Homemade mayonnaise and egg salad
Always better than store-bought. Makes 2 cups.
For the mayonnaise:
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup warm water
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste (approximately 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper)
For the egg salad:
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon
1-1/2 tsp capers
1/2 celery stalk
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add egg yolks, water and mustard. Turn the motor on, and blend for 30 seconds, or until the eggs begin to look pale yellow. Slowly drizzle in the oil, at first just a few drops at a time, then 1 Tbsp at a time until you’ve added approximately 1/2 cup. Stop the motor to make sure the mayo is emulsifying. If so, continue to add the oil in a slow steady stream. When oil is completely incorporated, season to taste with salt and pepper, plus any other additional seasonings (herbs, chiles, curry, etc.).
In a large pot, gently place raw eggs. Cover by 1 inch with cold water. Put pot over a high flame and bring to a boil. After the water comes to a boil, continue cooking for 1 minute, then remove the pan from heat and put a lid on it. Let the eggs sit, covered and off the heat, for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Meanwhile, chop the tarragon, scallion, capers and celery.
When eggs are cool, peel them. Cut into quarters and combine them in a bowl with the chopped seasonings, or chop all together on a cutting board.
Mix with mayonnaise and use a fork to mash the eggs into smaller pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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