Not sure if anyone remembers my attempts almost four, yes four, years ago, to make mayonnaise a couple of times, and it flopped. Since then, I've had a bit of a phobia about it. I'm not a fan of commercial ones, and the smell of a knife globbed with mayo and left in the sink actually makes me gag, as I've told roommates in order to get them to clean up the dishes. That commercial where the kid eats a condiment-heavy sandwich with a big white glob on it also turns my stomach.
In truth, I think I've just been avoiding it. I've had plenty of success with other emulsion-style sauces like vinaigrette and hollandaise. I just can't figure out why I haven't been able to get the handle on this one. It always seems to separate or turn to goo. Yesterday, I could no longer ignore my fear. I was put in a situation where I had to confront it head-on and to tackle it.
Mid last week I received an email from Astor Center saying that they had extra places available in Chef Carl Raymond's "Downeast Feast." I decided to jump at it, as it seemed to follow on from the fish class that I took with him several months ago. I've taken several of Chef Carl's classes before at the center, and they are always educational, informative, relaxing, and delicious. This one was no different and had a personal twist for him, as these are the recipes that he grew up with in Maine.
We managed to get ahead of our timetable, so he decided to teach us to make mayonnaise. Uh oh, my anxiety started to flood over me. Could I go hide in the bathroom at this part? He had us divide into pairs and coached us through each step of the way. There was a lot riding on the success of this venture, as our results would be being eaten by the class. We managed to nail it perfectly.
Feeling somewhat confident, I thought I would attempt it again today. It really is the small food victories are sometimes the most fulfilling. Following Chef Carl's directions and tips to the T, I managed to do it: I made Mayonnaise!
I know that this doesn't look at all like the kind of thing that you can buy in a store. It doesn't taste even close to the same, either. As he explained to us, traditional French-style, homemade mayo is more of a sauce than a very thick condiment. This did get a bit thicker when I put it in the fridge while I made the rest of my meal.
For dinner, I sort of cheated and bought an already-steamed lobster from The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market this afternoon, as I had some errands to run in that neighborhood. I decided to flavor the mayonnaise with some chopped capers, a bit of garlic, and an extra splash of lemon juice. Then I folded in the lobster meat and placed it on a bed of pan-fried sliced new potatoes surrounded by watercress.
The cool, creamy lobster and mayonnaise were a perfect combination with the crispy potatoes and peppery greens. On a hot summer night, this is the perfect light meal. The fact that I managed to make the mayonnaise myself made it taste even better.
Chef Carl's Mayonnaise
2 egg yolks at room temperature (use the freshest ones you can find)
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
1/2 c. canola oil poured into a measuring cup
In a very clean bowl (see Kitchen Witch Tip below), put the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Whisk for about a minute, until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture turns a pale yellow and looks sticky.
The key is to add the oil drop by drop, whisking in each drop thoroughly until the oil and egg mixture start to come together. This is where it starts to emulsify. You will see the bottom of the bowl through the mixture as you whisk it. Continue to add the oil a drop at a time.
When you have reached the point where it looks like a thin salad dressing, you can start to add the oil by dribbles, making sure to whisk each addition thoroughly. As it thickens, you can add the oil more aggressively to finish the mayonnaise. At this point, too, you can incorporate seasonings and spices to your taste.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Chef Carl also gave us a tip on how to keep our bowl from spinning around while we whisked furiously. Place a kitchen towel over a saucepan and balance the bowl on top, like below. This way, the bowl stays stable as you try to delicately dribble the oil into the egg mixture.