Friday, April 19, 2013

Eating Omily: Beat for Several Minutes Holding Pleasant Thoughts in Mind...

Happy Friday, guys!  Today I'm going to share with you a recipe that may strike you as sort of...fresh from Wonderland.  We tend to treat this item like an ingredient, instead of like a prepared product, but it is a prepared product, with an ingredient list, and everything!  And, of course, it tastes a million times better (and is a million times better for you) when you make it yourself.

It's...Mayonnaise.  Yep.  Put down the miracle whip and listen up: real mayonnaise made in your home kitchen is full of nutrients, has a truly decadent texture, can have just about any flavor you like, and has a million uses.

And no, the title of the blog is not what you should do to me for suggesting you're deficient in any way for buying store-bought mayonnaise!  It's actually a loosely remembered line from a French mayonnaise recipe featured in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Just give this a try ONCE, and we'll see if you go back to the jar anytime soon.

So, start with an egg (from pastured hens from your Farmer's Market, of course), some good-for-you oil, salt, and any flavorings you may want.  Like what?  Well, first of all, if you use a fruity, delicious olive oil, your mayonnaise will taste like a fruity, delicious olive oil.  This can be a very good thing, unless you're using, say, juices from cooked crab to flavor your mayonnaise and don't want the olive oil to overpower that subtle crabby sweetness.  In that, opt for a milder oil, like grapeseed, or just about any cold-pressed vegetable oil that wasn't made from GMOs.  So, the olive oil is your primary flavorant.  My favourite addition is a garlic clove.  Some people use a teaspoon or two of a favorite vinegar.  Soy sauce might be nice.  It's totally up to you!

Start by separating your egg.  Put the yolk in a smallish mixing bowl, and save the white for a scramble later.  Add salt, grated garlic clove, vinegar, or whatever flavoring you like to the egg yolk, and beat it together.  Now, if your oil isn't in a container with a very small pour spout, you may want to remedy this situation, and you may want to obtain a partner...or an electric mixer...or both, at least for your first couple attempts.

When you make mayonnaise, you're making an emulsion, and that can be tricky.  See, we all know oil and water don't mix.  An egg yolk has lots of water in it, as does vinegar, crab juices, etc.  But, egg yolks also have special molecules that just happen to have the right hookups to hold one water molecule, and one fat molecule together.  When you link up each molecule, you end up with a beautiful, creamy, fat and water being friendly, sandwich spread.

But, these special emulsifying molecules need a little coaxing.  The fat easily overwhelms them.  You have to add the oil very very slowly, just dribbles at a time, while beating the egg yolk continuously, until the emulsion forms.  At that point, you can add the oil a little faster, but it's still possible to go too fast, overwhelm the emulsifiers, and break the emulsion.  Once that's done, there's no putting Humpty Dumpty back together.  Throw it out, or beat a fresh egg yolk, and slowly add the broken emulsion to that one.

Hence, it's nice at first to have one person focusing on beating the emulsion, and one person focusing on adding the oil super slowly.  After a few times, you'll get the hang of it.  The electric mixer just saves your arms, and since the mixer is constantly moving at the same speed, it does improve your odds of success.

So, you start to dribble in the oil, mixing away.  How do you know when you have an emulsion?  Oh, trust me, you won't miss it.  The mixture will suddenly become thicker, and creamier than either of its two components, in a form of kitchen alchemy you will be amazed by every time.
So we're mixing....we're mixing...we're mixing...and...Whoa!!!!

Yes, you do it right, and that will happen, every time!  All that's in there is really good olive oil, one egg yolk, salt, and one grated garlic clove.  You can add up to one cup of oil per egg yolk, though the more oil you add, the less stable your emulsion, so I don't add more than half a cup, generally.  This stuff is amazing on toast with eggs (it's Hollandaise made with olive oil instead of butter, literally).  It's creamy, thick, rich, and just amazing.  Stir in chopped pickles for homemade tartar sauce, make potato or egg salads, which are fabulous for spring picnics, by the way.  The flavor of a salad made with this stuff instead of store-bought mayonnaise will absolutely blow your mind.

What do you think?  Are you up for the challenge??  Let me know how it goes; we'll trouble-shoot!

Nom nom nom...

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