Monday, March 10, 2008

March 10: Homemade Mayonnaise

There are some pieces of knowledge that are, for foodies, absolutely necessary to have, not because we use them all the time, but because when we do use them, they are so much better than whatever alternative is available that it is, quite simply, totally worth it.

The thing is, those pieces of knowledge aren't exactly static. What's necessary for me isn't necessary for, say, my best friend or my mother. I doubt that my mother has any desire to make her own fresh pasta for fettucine with garlic-cream sauce, and yet, I think that making the best fresh pasta I possibly can make is an invaluable skill. My best friend is a vegetarian, when she's not pregnant with a small person who, apparently, loves meat. I doubt that the ability to roast a chicken with moist, juicy meat and perfectly crisp and crackling skin is going to come in that handy for her, and I really do.

Homemade mayonnaise is well within the reach of anyone with a food processor, and I think that the ability to make it is a really important ability, at least for me. Why? Because it transforms and improves whatever it touches. Chicken salad is fine with Hellman's; chicken salad with homemade basil mayonnaise, chopped celery and red onion, and pine nuts on ciabatta bread is a work of art. Steamed fresh artichokes in spring are delicious, of course, but with homemade anchovy mayonnaise, they are pure luxury.

What dishes are your necessities? I have several, like I've mentioned: fresh pasta, perfectly roasted chicken, a light, fluffy, crispy waffle with cinnamon-honey butter, a brutally-rich and custardy cheesecake. And homemade mayonnaise, of course, which can be made in ten thousand different flavors for an equal number of applications. Try it, really. It's not hard, and it's worth it and it's science and art at the same time, which is something I like quite a bit about food. Here is the basic one; variations are limited only by your imaginations. And that sentence, the first one in this paragraph? Your necessities? I really want to know.

Homemade Mayonnaise

2 Egg yolks
1 Whole egg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups corn or vegetable oil, or best-quality olive oil

Combine the egg yolks, whole egg, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper, and half of the lemon juice in a food processor. Process for 1 minute.

With the motor running, drizzle in the oil in a slow, steady stream. When you have added all the oil, shut the motor off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Taste the mayonnaise. Correct the seasoning. If you are using vegetable oil, you will probably need the additional lemon juice. Scrape the mayonnaise into a storage container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. The mayonnaise will keep safely, if refrigerated for 5 days. Stir before using.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

My necessity dishes: flavorful falling-apart pot roast, creamy but not mushy risotto, double-crust fruit pies from scratch, homemade salad dressing.

I've been saying to Basil we should make homemade mayonnaise, especially since I've been reading In Defense of Food and am getting pretty skeeved out about all the food-like products in our house.