Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Great Mayonnaise Rescue

With all the hoopla going on about salmonella in eggs, I think now is a good time to take a stand. I'm very careful about food safety in my kitchen. I wash my hands after touching raw meat, I use a plastic cutting board for meat so that I don't contaminate the wood board I use for veggies, and I use a thermometer to ensure I'm cooking my meats to the proper temperature. But there is one thing I refuse to stop doing, and that is eating raw eggs. I love undercooked and raw eggs--their creamy texture, their rich flavor--and I love what they do to foods made with them. I will not, absolutely will never stop eating raw eggs no matter what food scares occur.

One of the reasons I'm able to take a stand, of course, is that I don't buy eggs from the grocery store, ever. I buy them from Farmer Tom at the farmer's market. Farmer Tom is an awesome farmer who sells the best, most delicious medium and large free-range pastured brown eggs. And if you're a little kid or pretty girl, he does magic tricks with a rubber band while you buy your eggs from his stand. (Also, when I told him that his eggs were the most delicious, he said "I'll tell the chickens!" which is adorable.)

So since I have too much to do today to make a full dish, I decided to make a favorite sandwich--BLTs--and do it with homemade mayonnaise to make up for the aoli fail that occurred a few months ago. People make mayonnaise all the time, so it can't be that hard, right? I just had an off day with the aoli. I decided to try the mayonnaise recipe from Ad Hoc at Home, to see if the recipe would make any difference.

So, I gathered my mise--four egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and 2 cups canola oil (I added some peanut to the oil, as I didn't have enough canola).

I put the yolks into the blender (to see if it worked better than the food processor) and mixed them.

Next, with the blender running, I began to trickle oil, very slowly, into the top of the blender.

With mayonnaise, and all the other "aise" sauces (hollandaise, bernaise, aoli..aise...) the most important thing is to add the oil slowly, almost drop by drop, to allow it to emulsify with the egg and prevent it from separation. Too much oil at once, and the sauce will separate into the runny failure.

For a while, things looked good. The mayonnaise was thick and creamy, and I kept adding the oil s-l-o-w-l-y while stopping to scrape the sides of the blender.

But once half the oil was in, the noise in the blender changed and liquid started spurting up out of the hole in the lid--oh no...

Blech. Nasty, runny, separated mess.

I stomped around the kitchen for a while but then remembered that there is, actually, a way to save separated mayonnaise--and now was the time to try it. I abandoned the blender in favor of a hand beater and a bowl. I beat another egg yolk:

Then, little by little, I added the separated mess to the yolk, beating all the while. This, finally, did the trick, and the mayonnaise came together, even when I added the remaining oil, the lemon, and the salt. The finished product was eggy, lemony, salty... perfect.

I spread it over fresh toasted bread, and added tomatoes and lettuce from the market, and some crisped bacon.

The result was delicious (though the bacon plus mayo was a bit salty without very thick slices of tomato to balance it out). A delicious lunch, and I'm slowly but surely feeling better about cooking again.

Oh, and by the way, we didn't out those egg whites to waste. Husband J made us Ace Cocktails, a concoction of gin, cream, egg white and maraschino. A little sweeter than I usually like, but I do love that egg froth mouthfeel. Delicious.

Lessons Learned: Nico's new rules of mayonnaise: 1) Raw egg is delicious. Buy your eggs from farmers, and don't be afraid of them. 2) Pour the oil in as slowly as you can. 3) If it separates, don't freak! Just pour the separated sauce into a new egg yolk and it will solidify much better.

I'll try the aoli again using these rules, and this time I have confidence that I will succeed!


  1. Shan tried to make homemade mayo using olive oil. Yeah, didn't work so well - it tasted musty and didn't come together right (although I don't know what method she used). At least I know the trick now

  2. When you make mayo with olive oil, never whisk it, blend it, or make it in a food processor; it will be bitter. Use a mortar and pestle or bowl and wooden spoon. Here is another trick that I think helps: I add the lemon juice and salt last.