Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Magic of Mayo

I have been a fan of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks ever since I saw his first (and second best, after "Jamie's Italy") TV series, "The Naked Chef." A few months ago I picked up Cook with Jamie as an impulse purchase at Whole Foods, but haven't gotten around to looking at it.

I'm still kind of jet lagged from that quick trip to Finland; I've been waking up at dawn and falling asleep around 10pm. This morning I finally picked up "Cook with Jamie" and started reading. Not too far in I got to his recipe for mayonnaise. It sounded so perfect: I had too much canola oil in my fridge, plus a few egg yolks. These were leftovers from my failed wedding cake project.

Making mayonnaise is extremely simple, but not easy. All you have to do is beat oil into an egg yolk. Simple, but not easy. You have to drip in the oil slowly enough that it and the egg yolk will form a creamy emulsion. As you add oil and keep beating, it's possible that the resulting gel-like substance will "break," meaning it will suddenly turn from a thick creamy spread back to liquid.

I had just read Julie and Julia, the one about the woman who spent a year cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Aside from being in turns hilarious and disgusting, it contained a few cooking tips. When Julie was desperately trying to master mayonnaise, she figured out that the little hole in that cup/plunger like thingy that goes in the top of the food processor is the perfect size for dribbling in oil when making mayonnaise. So, I decided to use Jamie's recipe and Julie's food processor technique.

I started by putting the egg yolk and some dijon mustard into the food processor, and turned it on. Then I measured out a cup of canola oil, and put it in the dribble cup. Magically, the oil incorporated into the egg yolk and a beautiful creamy sauce developed. I was entranced. Jamie's recipe called for one egg yolk to a pint of oil, since I had started with two egg yolks (that what was left over from the wedding cakes), I attempted to dribble in four cups (two pints) of oil. After the second cup, I had a very thick mayo that was getting stiff and globby. I thought that continuing adding the oil would smooth it out, so I forged on ahead with the third cup.

Sure enough, the mayo got creamier -- for about five seconds. Then it all turned to liquid. I don't know if this was because of the oil/yolk ratio, the heat that had built up from the food processor motor, or what, but there it was, a mess.

Fortunately Jamie had advice: don't throw out the broken sauce, start over with a new egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of oil, and then slowly dribble the broken mayo back in.

It worked! I ended up with about two cups of perfectly creamy mayonnaise. I added lemon juice, salt, and pepper to season it. I put it into a Mason jar, and wonder how long this will last in the fridge?

1 comment:

Dzesika said...

Julie and Julia: fantastic book!