Homemade mayonnaise is my white whale. No wait, making a decent gnocchi is my white whale- I've never, ever managed that. Homemade mayonnaise is just a real pain in the ass and only works half the time, but for some reason whenever I think to make it I get all excited, like it's the best idea I've had in years and why didn't I think of it earlier, and what's the point of eating crappy storebought anyway?
For yesterday's barbecue my housemate, The Boy, wanted to make some potato salad and I had a brilliant moment of clarity in which I said 'I know, I'll MAKE you some mayonnaise!!' He agreed and we passed by the mayo aisle of Sainsbury's confidently.
Deciding it was best to do the mayo first, give it to The Boy, and then move on to my own side dishes before making myself presentable before everyone showed up, I got to work on my favorite machine, the one that sits bathing in a beam of sunlight on my kitchen counter, while angels fill the air with song. The Kitchen-Aid mixer, best £240 I ever spent on a second-hand item. With Kitchen-Aid by my side, there is no way the mayo can beat me!
I cracked open Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie, and started the long, slow, overcautious dribble of one drop of oil at a time, with a full prayer said between each drop to be sure it's fully incorporated. Now, Jamie tells me to use one egg yolk, a spoonful of dijon mustard, then whisk in ONE PINT of oil, following up with some fresh lemon juice to tart it all up. I have found in the past that the mayo looks right when I've only incorporated about half of the suggested oil, and usually I just count my blessings and leave it at that. But for some reason yesterday I had an impulse to go for broke, and whisk the whole damn lot in. It works for Jamie, right?
Halfway through, things were looking distinctly mayo-y, I was feeling good, I was bragging to the boys about what a clever cook I am, how I could just MAKE mayonnaise from egg and oil and my own two hands (with the assistance of a very expensive machine), and all the while I kept going, kept pouring that full pint of oil into the whisk, pushing it all in there. And then this happened:
This is a heartbreaking moment. Seriously, I had followed the whole 'drop 1, hail mary, drop 2 hail mary' procedure the whole time, which makes dribbling a pint of oil into a bowl a very lengthy process indeed. I had been working on it for a good half an hour, and production on all other food items had stopped until I got it right. I went back to Jaimie, and felt hopeful at the suggestion that a little bit of hot water can sometimes make it come back together. It can't. Or at least, it didn't.
The only thing to do is close the book, follow your common sense, and start again. This time I started with two egg yolks and a spoonful of dijon mustard, incorporated a few tablespoons of oil into the yolks to get the emulsion going, and then dribbled in the chunks-of-egg-folating-in-oil that was the result of my first attempt. One clump at a time.
Eureka! Here it is:
By the time I'd managed this precious little emulsion, I had a house full of guests, hadn't finished any of the other food, and was hot, sweaty, and wild-eyed, with oil and egg dribbling down the front of my top. But I conquered the mayo. Oh yes.
Next time, I will not attempt to fit an elephant into a Mini. I will follow the more resonable portions that every other internet recipe for mayonnaise calls for.
2 free range egg yolks (as fresh as possible)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
300 mililiters of olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Whisk the egg yolks and mustard together, using a machine if you've got one or a hand whisk if you're really tough and want a good workout. Dribble the oil into the mix one drop at a time, whisking like your life depends on it, and incorporating prayer if that's your thing. You can substitute half of your olive oil with veggie oil if you're worried about wasting the expensive stuff should the whole thing go wrong.
Once you've dripped in a few tablespoons you should be able to increase your speed to a thin stream, and when it's looking thick and smooth and mayo-y, that's it! You can stop. Stir in your lemon juice to loosen up the texture, and enjoy the kind of satisfaction you'll never get from a jar of Kraft...