cucina bene; mangia bene (homemade mayo is best)
We’ve all indulged in consuming mayonnaise. We spread it on sandwiches, and burgers; we make dressing with it, we use it as a dip, as a binder, and as a secret ingredient in many family recipes. My favorite sandwich is a fresh ripe tomato on toasted sourdough with salt, pepper, and mayo. When I was in Italy, mayonnaise was served with roasted or poached fish at the restaurant I worked in; the Italians also like to dip their French fries in it instead of ketchup like us Americans. There is, however, a vast difference in flavor between store-bought mayonnaise and homemade mayonnaise. Homemade mayo is really easy to make and can be made into many other sauces as well: add garlic and you have aioli, add extra mustard and you have remoulade, add chopped pickles and a few other ingredients and you have tartar sauce, add ketchup to that and you have thousand island dressing. I could go on and on, but hopefully, the point has been made that mayonnaise is an important pantry item to every home cook. Now, on to the pitch for making your own.
First off, mayonnaise is an emulsion. What that means is it is a mixture of two or more ingredients, that by nature, don’t mix well……like oil and water. An emulsifier is an ingredient that acts as a liaison to help the two ingredients blend together and keep from separating. In the case of mayonnaise, we have oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and egg (more specifically the yolk) which is the emulsifier. Commercial products contain the same ingredients as well as others such as sugar, calcium disodium EDTA (don’t know what that is), and other ‘natural flavors’. You can make mayonnaise with any oil and most commercial products are made with soybean, canola, safflower or other oils. Here, we will discuss making mayonnaise with olive oil only. It is said that the origin of mayonnaise is French and was created when celebrating the capture of the city of Mahon on the Spanish Isle of Minorca in 1756. The chef was making a sauce and realized he had no cream so substituted olive oil instead and voilà: mayonnaise was born! The Spanish as well as the French Provencal’s make their mayonnaise today with olive oil as in the recipe below. Try it as a dipping sauce for steamed artichokes or use it to make a garlicky potato salad. Try it with roasted or poached fish like the Italians I cooked for in Fano, Italy. You just might decide that it’s better than the stuff on the shelf at the grocery store……a presto!
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a mild flavored oil for this application)
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 egg (use a fresh organic egg if possible)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of sea salt
Dash of white pepper
In a stainless-steel bowl, add mustard, egg, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Begin adding the olive oil a little at a time while whisking. You might want to put the bowl under a damp kitchen towel to keep it from spinning out of your control. Continue adding the oil and whisking until the mixture becomes very thick and has started to emulsify. Add the lemon juice and whisk to combine. Transfer the mayonnaise to a glass jar with a lid (mason works great) and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days if it lasts that long…
To make aioli, add 1 tbs. minced garlic when adding the egg, mustard, salt and pepper and continue with the recipe as noted. Aioli is delicious with grilled shrimp and and when spread on a grilled medium-rare burger with arugula and smoked cheddar cheese!
Oh, and you can make this in the food processor too if you are in a hurry. Buon Appetito!