Mayonnaise like hollandaise is a process of forcing egg yolks to absorb a fatty substance, oil in this case, and to hold it in thick and creamy suspension. – Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking – 1961
In my family we have always bought mayonnaise for only two reasons: to make summer roasted peppers crostini and a tuna sauce to spread on thinly sliced veal. Full stop. We got through the ’80s unharmed: no shrimp cocktail to be served in withered lettuce leaves when my parents’ friends were over for dinner, no sliced white bread topped with pickles, hard boiled eggs and jelly, no sandwiches spread with mayonnaise and patterned with small and round frankfurters as morning snack at school. Actually I was the weird one, the chubby girl who used to pull out of her schoolbag bread and ham, a slice of jam tart or red apples.
Then, out of the blue, I got the urge to make stuffed eggs with tuna and mayonnaise, deep plunged in a vintage revival made of ’50s pin up style lingerie, bright red lipstick and checkered aprons. I wanted to be in the shoes of a modern Marion Cunningham, or rather, in the high heels shoes of a Mad Men star: nothing better than that to feel womanly and attractive!
So I made stuffed eggs, yet in a contemporary style, with real homemade mayonnaise, good quality tuna and a bunch of fresh herbs picked in the garden. Following the leading vintage thread, who better than Julia Child could teach us to make a perfect mayonnaise?
Julia Child’s tips
Read Julia Child’s tips to get a perfect mayonnaise before you start beating your egg yolks:
- Mayonnaise is easiest to make when all ingredients are at normal room temperature, so warm the mixing bowl in hot water to take the chill off the egg yolks. Heat the oil to tepid if it is cold – I think I’ve been quite nagging about that on the video.
- Pour the oil in a thin stream or drop by drop until the mayonnaise thickens into a heavy cream. After this, the oil can be incorporated more rapidly. Use from 240 ml to 350 ml of oil per 3 egg yolks.
- The original recipe is for hand-beaten mayonnaise, but you can easily use an immersion blender or an electric beater on medium speed.
- If you follow Julia’s thoughtful advice you won’t have trouble with freshly made mayonnaise. Though, mayonnaise can go crazy – it happens! – when the sauce refuses to thicken or curdles. Do not panic and do not throw theatrically bowl and whisk into the bin! First, while making mayonnaise, beat 2 tablespoons of boiling water into the sauce: this is an anti-curdling insurance. Second, if it has already happened, add one tablespoon of mustard and one tablespoon of curdled sauce in a warm and clean bowl. Beat for several seconds until they cream and thicken together. Beat in the rest of the sauce by teaspoons, thickening each addition before adding the next. This always works.
- 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or wine vinegar
- 1 pinch of salt
- about 240 ml (1/2 pt) of olive oil or vegetable oil
- (2 tablespoons of boiling water)
- lemon juice or wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- Warm the bowl in hot water and dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat them for a minute or two until they become sticky and thick.
- Add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and a pinch of salt and beat for a further 30 seconds.
- The yolks are now ready to receive the oil slowly. Pour it in a thin stream, or add it drop by drop, and do not stop beating until the mayonnaise has thickened. Add the oil gradually, stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil.
- If the mayonnaise becomes too thick add gradually a few tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar.
- Once the mayonnaise has absorbed all the oil, add mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Notes on the ingredients
- Use organic free range eggs.
- Choose the oil according to your taste: extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil. I used an organic sunflower seeds oil, since I was searching for a less prevailing taste, but if you opt for olive oil, be sure to pour on your mayonnaise a mild fruity olive oil. Speaking of Italian olive oil, I would suggest a Ligurian DOP.
- This is the homemade mustard I used to give a kick to my mayonnaise. Although it is not Christmas, it’s always a good time to make a jar of mustard and keep it in the fridge … for months!
- These are Eleonora‘s tips to make mayonnaise, because homemade mayo rocks!
- Vegan? My friend Alice has a recipe for no-egg mayonnaise, it works magic! (in Italian)
- Not to miss anything, check David Lebovitz‘s Provençal version of mayonnaise, the aioli, a garlic sauce to serve with fish and vegetables, a persistent memory of my holidays in Provence.
- Talking about garlic, my mind runs to my friend Beth and her recipes, here’s an idea for an explosive Lebanese garlic sauce: if you haven’t met Beth and tried her food you can not understand the full meaning of the word garlic!
- Finally, a video with Julia Child to enjoy her manners, her wit, her mastery in the kitchen … bon appetit!