Me-O, My-O, Mayo

Originally published in the Herald Sun 5/2012

Hello, my name is Debbie Matthews, and I am a white food addict. I just love starches. Right now in my kitchen there is rice, potatoes (white and fingerlings), six different bread products, and about eight different pasta shapes. Just tonight I came home from Costco with enough blue box mac to feed the whole Duggar family for a week. And, no children live at our house. Petey and I will take care of it all.

That’s the stuff.

As much as I love a fluffy baked potato, or a piece of sourdough toast, though, I’ve got to be honest. Just like cake is the delivery device for the frosting, white food is an especially scrumptious platform for the fat I put on it.

Mashed potatoes and gravy. Buttered rice with peas. Pasta with Alfredo sauce. Fresh bagels with obscene amounts of cream cheese.

…and I mean obscene.

And mayonnaise is always in my fridge, and I suspect in most of yours. Unfortunately, because of mayo’s familiarity, we tend to take it for granted. But think about it. Where would your tuna sandwich, potato salad, and deviled eggs be without our creamy friend?

Perfect resting place for mayo.

Perfect resting place for mayo.

It’s a little bit like family. They’re not really appreciated until we feel that they’re being dissed. You want to start a fight? Walk into a room, and announce that Miracle Whip is an abomination. Or, conversely, declare that Duke’s sucks, and Miracle Whip is the only true mayo. Folks will be riled up for hours. I promise.
For many, many years, I was a true-blue Kraft girl. That’s what my mom bought, and that’s what I grew up with. I did have a short-term fling with Duke’s. A cook gave me a terrific lemon potato salad recipe that only works well if made with Duke’s. Soon, though the egginess and lack of zing sent me back into Kraft’s awaiting arms.
One day, The Kid, Petey and I ate at the Raleigh Times (14 E. Hargett St, downtown Raleigh). We were there because we had heard their burgers were amazing. They are. But–they make their fries from scratch–even more amazing. When they brought us delicious mayo to dunk the wonderful fries in, we were convinced it was homemade. It wasn’t; it was Hellmann’s. From that day forward, we were a Hellmann’s family.
No matter which jar you grab at the grocery store, there is an interesting alternative. Make your own. It’s not hard to do, just hard on your arm muscles. You can make it in a blender. But, to really understand how the process works, making it the most basic way is best. Besides, I’ve never made it in a blender, so I can’t speak to that.
The tools are important. You need a nice round bowl, deep enough so you won’t cover yourself in mayo while whisking. A whisk–the bigger the whisk, the more work it will do for you. A vessel for the oil. The first few times I made it, I poured the oil into a large measuring cup, and moved it into the bowl with a small ladle. Eventually, when I got the procedure down, I bought a squeeze bottle, like what ketchup and mustard come in.
The ingredients are simple. It’s likely you have them on hand most of the time. Just remember to take your time. It’s easy to make, but just as easy to ruin.



Basic Homemade Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 lemon
2 cups (aprox) canola or other mild flavored oil

Place yolks in a bowl with mustard. Whisk them together. Now, here is where it can get tricky. Slowly, one ladle at a time, add the oil. As you’re pouring with one hand, whisk vigorously with the other. When all the oil is incorporated, add another. It should take 3-4 additions of oil before you notice the emulsion beginning. To check, scrape the whisk along the bottom of the bowl. It should hold, and you will see the bowl bottom. With an emulsion, you can add a little faster. But don’t just dump the oil in. You can still destroy your mayo, and end up with a bowl of a watery mess.
When you have a nice, thick bowl of mayo, stop adding oil. This is where you flavor and finish. Add half the juice of the lemon. Liberally salt and pepper. Add the cayenne. Then taste. Fiddle with the flavors ’til you are satisfied.

Homemade mayo is great on tons of stuff. I love to mix it in orzo, fresh aspargus, baby arugula, and some halved grape tomatoes. This makes a tasty, chilled, spring salad.
Made yourself, mayo has all kinds of flavor that doesn’t come in a jar. You can add Tabasco for spice. Or, for garlic mayo, poach a few cloves in some oil. When it’s cooled you can use the oil in the mayo. Use all of the lemon, and garlic infused oil, and you have a lemon-garlic aioli. The kind of stuff that goes for ten bucks a jar at a gourmet grocer. Add pickle relish, a teaspoon of sugar, and some vinegar, you’ve got tartar sauce. Let your imagination go wild.
I was always sure I couldn’t make an emulsion. But, once I tried making it, I realized, as long as I take my time, it’s hard to mess up. And it’s a flavor you just can’t buy.
Homemade is yummy and easy. But some dishes just needs the old supermarket stand-bye to taste right. That’s why I’m still “Team Hellmann’s”.
Which team are you?

Thanks for your time.

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