Mayonnaise made with a whisk, a.k.a. sauce aux carpal tunnel


I opened up Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to read about mayonnaise. And — to my surprise — Julia does actually give directions for using a food processor to make easier work of homemade mayonnaise. And I was sorely tempted, to skip the whisk. But then I read:

Mayonnaise done by hand or with an electric beater requires familiarity with egg yolks. And again, as with hollandaise, you should be able to make it by hand as part of your general mastery of the egg yolk.

I didn’t realize the egg yolk was something that needed to be mastered, but if so, then after reading that sentence, I was thereby bound to force the yolk to submit. Because I have a hard time refusing a food-related challenge.

Julia also gives a nice solution to the 3-arm question (one needed to hold the whisk, one to drizzle the oil drop by minuscule drop, and one to hold the bowl): set your bowl in a towel-lined pan to keep it steady. So I pre-measured everything, separated my eggs, warmed the yolks and the bowl over some boiling water (I was cooking asparagus), and got ready to commence with the whisking.

I never really know when Tim will return from a day’s work (within a half-hour or so window). But I couldn’t have timed my mayonnaise-making adventure in a more perfect way. For, just as my right (whisking) arm was very near the point of seizing into one twisted mass of spasm-ing muscles, my knight in shining armor walked through the door.

“What’cha doin’ there?”

(No response. I’m whisking, hoping that beads of sweat don’t start dropping with the oil into the emulsifying yolks.)

“You, uh, need help there?”

“Can’t. Stop. How to whisk you? Wait! Just one. More. Drop by drop. Two second. Whisk!”

“Yeah, you’re looking like you could use a break. Here…”

And he magically takes the whisk, without missing a literal beat. And then all I had to do was pour the oil. Drop by drop. And finally — it was such a beautiful thing: the egg yolks submitted to our torture, received the oil being given, and made an emulsion. After 1/2 cup of oil had been added, we were safely in the land of creaminess, and the whisking could pause, then resume after adding the rest of the oil in 2-Tbsp dollops.

Homemade mayonnaise is lovely. It’s yellower than storebought (that probably has something to do with the 1/2 portion of olive oil that I used — which I wouldn’t do again, since the olive oil is too strongly flavored), and not as gelatinous. It doesn’t last forever though (what thing of good quality, when exposed to oxygen, actually does?) — so we have a 1/2 cup or so left to get through within the next few days. That’s gonna be a tough one. Maybe chicken or tuna salad is in our weekend plan.

Oh, the purpose of the mayonnaise. It was for the salade a la d’argenson (potato and beet salad). And it was delicious. I added toasted walnuts, asparagus, and the mayonnaise to the marinated beets and potatoes I’d started the day before. And Tim really liked it (although he ate too much, which might have ruined the dish for him). But he assured me that this does not mean he likes beets. Which gets me off the hook for those 522 remaining recipes.

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