From Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan
I may shock you when I say that bottled mayonnaise is as popular in France as it is here. And while some of my French foodie friends think it’s chic to search out Hellmann’s mayonnaise at the specialty boutiques in Paris, I’m always looking for the French brands, which seem to be eggier and closer to real mayonnaise. I reach for the bottled stuff all the time, but when the mayonnaise is going to matter—for instance, when you’re using it as a dip for shrimp, making lobster salad, or serving it with cold asparagus—making your own matters. Happily, preparing mayonnaise is easy, quick (about 10 minutes, start to finish) and rewarding. Making an emulsion, which is what mayonnaise is, is akin to alchemy.
You can use any kind of oil you’d like. Many cooks suggest a neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola, thinking that olive oil is too flavorful for mayonnaise, but I like to use a combination of olive and peanut. Whatever you choose, you must have some kind of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or a splash of both.
You can make mayonnaise by hand with a whisk or in a blender or food processor, but no matter how you mix it (or mount it, as the French say for sauces that are made by slowly adding oil or butter), you should have your egg yolk at room temperature, ditto your oil, and you should add the oil literally drop by drop until about half of it is in and you can see that you’ve got a nice emulsion. After that, slow and steady are the bywords.
If you make this recipe with 1/2 cup oil, you’ll have a very thick, flavorful mayonnaise. Taste it and decide what you want to do—you can add up to about 1/2 cup more oil without compromising the mix.
Makes 1/2 to 1 cup
1 large egg yolk, preferably organic, at room temperature
About 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar, or a combination
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
1/2 – 1 cup oil, mild (such as grapeseed or canola) or more flavorful (such as peanut, corn or olive), or a combination
Freshly ground pepper
Put the yolk, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and/or vinegar, and the mustard in a bowl (or a blender or food processor), add some salt, and whisk (or whir) to blend. Drop by drop — really — start adding the oil, whisking (or whirring) all the while. When you’ve got about 1/4 cup oil beaten in and the mix is starting to look like mayonnaise (this usually takes 4 minutes or so), you can add the remaining oil more steadily, but still slowly. Use at least 1/2 cup oil, and up to about 1 cup, adding as much as you need to get the consistency you want. Taste and add pepper and more salt, if you’d like. If you’d like it a little more piquant, add a smidge more mustard or a few more drops of lemon juice or vinegar.
Serving: Use your luxurious homemade mayonnaise just as you would mayo from a jar, but put it in a prettier dish—it deserves some special treatment.
Photo by Stacy Spensley