Each time I would complain about how awful I found mayonnaise to be, my mom would say something along the lines of "I know, this is nothing like the real stuff". The real stuff? She would then regale me with tales of the homemade mayonnaise that she had had the pleasure of consuming when she lived in France. And that would be the last I would hear of it. Back to the horrid jar of gunk.
Fast forward ten years or so, I had graduated from college, moved to New York and was beginning to collect a few cookbooks. My mom had set me up with the basics...Julia Child, the Doubleday Cookbook, Deborah Madison, but I also added a few supplements of my own, including Cooking For Mr. Latte. In this charming little book I came across a recipe for basil mayonnaise chicken salad, and my interest was piqued.
So I set to work making my first mayonnaise. I whisked like mad...I whisked the oil into the egg yolk until the concoction thickened. I threw in a little salt and lemon juice, tasted, and my revelation, one not so different from the one my mom must have had forty years ago in France, was complete. It was smooth, silky, and with the slight lemony piquancy the taste was vastly more appealing than any store bought brand.
I added the basil and mixed my newly herbed mayonnaise through my warm chicken pieces and quickly fell in love. It was my new lunch dish for too many days in a row.
As I became more of a mayonnaise aficionado I began to experiment more. Different herbs (the chicken salad is excellent with tarragon rather than basil), different bases (asparagus is fabulous dipped in good mayonnaise) and different oils (olive oil makes for a thinner mayonnaise while something like safflower oil makes for a thicker mixture). The options are endless, and most certainly worth exploring. To get you started, here is the basic mayonnaise recipe that I have settled on:
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup mild oil like safflower
1/4 cup high quality olive oil
lemon juice to taste
Select a relatively heavy mixing bowl, one that will not move around too much as you whisk. In the absence of such a bowl, set mixing bowl on either a non-slip surface or a wet dish towel. Whisk egg yolk and mustard together and add a healthy pinch of salt. Then, while whisking, drizzle safflower oil slowly into the mixture. It will begin to thicken fairly quickly. Then whisk in the olive oil. The olive oil only makes sense if you have a delicious one that can add another dimension to the mayonnaise. Otherwise, substitute safflower oil. Taste, and add lemon juice to taste, approximately 2 teaspoons, and more salt if necessary.