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Patti Bess: Mayonnaise from scratch

Most chefs will tell you mayonnaise is best made by hand with a whisk, but with care, the blender works and it’s easy.
Photo by Patti Bess

Many years ago as a student at Sonoma State University, I lived with a school friend, Louise, and her husband on their Sonoma Mountain farm. One weekend a month I took their lively eight- year old daughter on excursions to the beach or camping in exchange for living in a funky, remodeled woodshed.

Louise was a passionate cook. I gladly offered to wash dishes and assist in small ways in order to share meals. Occasionally, her mother would visit from Oregon. She was a tall, broad shouldered, somewhat intimidating woman. When the two of them worked in the kitchen, they were a true “dream team.”

On one of her first visits, Louise’s mother was celebrating a particularly good contract their family’s logging company had gotten. She brought wines from their great uncle’s cellar – bottles older than I was. My first Bouillabaisse that evening still haunts my dreams. Warm sourdough bread, a salad of fresh picked baby greens and wine that literally danced on my tongue.



The food memory that truly stands out was the afternoon I helped scrub new potatoes dug from the garden. Louise made mayonnaise, and I sliced the lightly steamed potatoes in half. She topped each with a clove of garlic and slathered on mayonnaise. With a small hand grinder we sprinkled fresh lemon thyme, marjoram and parsley over all. My friend opened my eyes to freshness and taste experiences I never had been exposed to.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m making mayonnaise again. It seems food has definitely increased in price these past months of the pandemic, and, well, experimenting in the kitchen is about as exciting as life gets. When did we begin to think we had to buy mayonnaise and couldn’t make our own? If you’ve never made it at home, it’s time to try.



Most chefs will tell you mayonnaise is best made by hand with a whisk, but with care, the blender works and it’s easy. If you remember from high school Chemistry class, mayonnaise is an emulsion. All ingredients need to be at room temperature to insure that the molecules of fat bind together. Because it contains raw egg, mayonnaise should always be stored in the refrigerator, but you already knew that.

And from “Joy of Cooking” — “Never try to make mayonnaise if a thunderstorm threatens or is in progress, as it simply will not bind.” Amusing, I have no idea what that means.

You can vary the herbs or flavorings in this recipe to suit your own liking — more sugar if you like sweeter mayonnaise. I especially like adding two tablespoons minced fresh tarragon this time of year —using it to dip artichoke leaves, serve with cold salmon, or add a dollop to asparagus. Today I added a little curry powder, lemon juice and some sour cream to dip the roasted vegetables. Enjoy!

Mayonnaise

One egg

One teaspoon Dijon mustard

Three quarters teaspoon salt

A dash of cayenne pepper

One teaspoon sugar

One quarter cup extra virgin best quality olive oil

Three quarters cup safflower or canola oil

Two tablespoons lemon juice

All ingredients must be at room temperature. You might rinse the blender with warm water and dry thoroughly. Squeeze lemon juice and set aside for later.

Add the egg, mustard, salt, cayenne, sugar and olive oil in the blender. Cover and blend on high until thoroughly combined. With the blender still running, take off the cover and VERY slowly pour in the oil and then the lemon juice and remaining oil until thoroughly blended and thick. Stop and start blender to stir down the mayonnaise. Fresh herbs may be added at this point.

Roasted Roots

One large carrot

Two medium parsnips

Two to three medium-size new potatoes

(or Yukon gold potatoes)

One small to medium red onion

Four to six whole cloves garlic (or more)

Three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Two tablespoons lemon juice

One teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Generous fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash all vegetables. Peel carrots and parsnips. Cut carrots and parsnips into 2-inch lengths. Cut the thicker portion in half crosswise. Quarter the onion leaving root ends on to hold together. Cut potatoes into bite-size chunks. Remove skins from garlic but leave them whole.

Place all cut up vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs if you choose. Toss this throughout the vegetables and add salt and pepper to your own liking. Place on a baking sheet in one layer.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes and test pieces with a fork. A simple sauce could be made up of a half cup of sour cream or low fat yogurt, two tablespoons lemon juice, salt and grainy mustard to taste or use your fresh made mayonnaise. Makes 2 servings.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer, recipe developer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. Contact her with questions or suggestions at: bess.pattia@gmail.com


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