It was the asparagus’ fault. Last weekend Jon went to the farmer’s market by himself (it was my Saturday to work) and picked up some unusually beautiful Eastern Washington asparagus. Then he found some really attractive sockeye steaks. It all looked so good, but it needed a little something extra…I decided it was about time I made another attempt at homemade mayonnaise.
I’d been scared of making mayonnaise for a while. The one time I tried, I used the large food processor for too little sauce and it didn’t emulsify properly. But I’ve watched chefs make aioli at cooking classes, and it didn’t look hard – then there was John Thorne’s essay about learning to make mayonnaise with nothing but a plate, a fork, one egg yolk, a little vinegar and some oil. If making it by hand was really that easy, it seemed like I had no reason not to try. Besides, I know I can make a very good hollandaise, so what was I afraid of? I checked proportions in a few cookbooks and gave it a whirl.
First, the oil. I decided that I didn’t want the mayonnaise to taste too overwhelmingly of olive oil, so I went back and forth between adding olive and canola oils. The balance worked out pretty well, although I might go even lighter on the olive oil next time (our house oil, Colavita, is very strong and grassy tasting). The canola, in its decanter, was easier to add slowly.
Then the eggs. We only needed a small amount of sauce for dinner, so I used a single egg yolk. Adding just a splash each of lemon juice and champagne vinegar, I whisked it up well, then added a good pinch of salt and started dripping in oil. As the oil was absorbed I began adding it a little faster, and soon it all began to emulsify into a lovely buttercream consistency. My arm also started to fall off, so we traded back and forth on the whisk.
After it seemed like we might have the right amount of oil beaten in, I crushed a single garlic clove into the mayonnaise and tasted for salt. The egg flavor was pronounced, with just a touch of lemon – I think it might be nice with a bit more lemon and a bit less vinegar next time, but with the garlic this worked well.
It was amazing on the grilled asparagus. Our wine was a bright, low-alcohol albariño that cut through the sauce, and the fish was grilled rare with a touch of cumin. A really good dinner. And now I know I can make mayonnaise!