I hated mayonnaise growing up. I would maybe eat it in tuna salad, but only if there was just a wee bit and if my mom lied to me about it being in there. As I got older, I figured I wasn’t missing out on much because it’s supposedly not all that great for you anyway. But then, several years ago, we went to this great Belgian place in Indy, Brugge. I used to get Friday afternoons off in the summer, so Grant met me at Brugge for a beer one Friday when it had first opened. It was one of those early summer perfect days, so what started as a beer before heading home turned into a few beers and a gigantic order of frites. We also weren’t quite the beer nerds that we are now, so we ordered their tripel (which was and is delicious, especially on a gorgeous summer day), not realizing that it was ten percent ABV (alcohol by volume). We may or may not be the reason that Brugge now has a two beer limit on their tripel. Kidding!
Anyway, back to the point of this story, the fries themselves were amazing, but their homemade sauces were even more delicious. Grant said the homemade mayonnaise was so delicious that I had to try it. He basically forced me. And he was right – it was so good and unlike any mayonnaise I had ever had (that I had much experience in the mayonnaise department since I refused to ever even try it). So I went home and made some.
I used Mark Bittman’s directions and recipe from How to Cook Everything. If you’ve ever read any Bittman, you know that the guy has a serious crush on his food processor. Now don’t get me wrong – I love my food processor. But I actually think mayonnaise is a bit easier to make by hand. The first few times I made it with the food processor, I had about a 60 percent success rate. My food processor does have one of those little holes that he refers to, but I guess I’m just not patient enough for homemade mayo with the food processor. It wouldn’t emulsify, so I would have to add more egg yolks. I could eventually save it (use these directions if the same thing happens to you), but I wound up with a massive batch of (very rich) homemade mayo, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I suppose. But I find that I do better with smaller batches. It tastes best fresh, and it’s so easy that I tend to just make it when I needed it.
I’ve included the basic recipe, but my favorite twist is to add a finely diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce at the end to make a chipotle mayonnaise that makes just about anything taste better.
Start with farm fresh eggs – the fresher, the better. Don’t screw around with your eggs here. You want to know your farmer and how he treats his chickens because it’s the right thing to do – and because you’ll be eating raw eggs, which isn’t that big of a deal when you’re dealing with eggs from pastured hens but becomes a scarier issue when you’re eating eggs from factory farmed hens. I usually use two, and I just use the yolks. This recipe works fine with one yolk or with the whole egg too. You can use the whites for plenty of other things. Or you can do like I sometimes do and freeze them in ice cube trays for a later use.
Dump about two teaspoons of Dijon mustard in the bowl with the yolks. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar to the bowl with the yolks and the mustard. I add here about a half teaspoon of sea salt too.
In a measuring cup, pour about one cup of oil (I typically use extra virgin olive oil, but grapeseed is yummy too). Begin stirring the yolk, mustard, and acid mixture vigorously until an emulsion forms, which just means that it begins to thicken up – almost like a buttercream icing. It’s a bit of magic actually, and I’m always happily surprised by it. The secret with homemade mayonnaise is to add the oil in very gradually and slowly, so that you don’t “break the emulsion.” I find that doing it by hand makes me more patient.
Once the emulsion forms, very slowly add the oil. I just add it a few drops at a time, whisk, add a few more drops, whisk – and repeat that for about 5-6 minutes. It’s a decent workout too – my biceps always feel it afterwards.
Once you’ve used up all of the oil, you’re done – you made mayonnaise! Here I taste it and typically need to salt it a bit more.
If you want to make aoili, add two cloves (or more!) of minced garlic to the eggs at the beginning. If you want to make an even fancier aoili, add roasted garlic to the eggs. If I have fresh herbs, pretty much any combination of fresh herbs minced and added at the end are delicious. Check out Bittman’s link for more ideas.
It stays for about a week in the fridge, which is another reason to stick with smaller batches.