Mind-Searing Mayo

What if you gave a party and nobody came?  Or worse, what if everyone came, but nobody ate?

Tonight we had a party celebrating Teacherman’s belated birthday.  Many chips, many dips, many crudites.  Some bread, three kinds of cake.  Most of the platters are still close to pristine.  This is when I wail and whine about Where I Went Wrong.  Well, nowhere, really; people just weren’t hungry.  Still, it’s disappointing.  Especially since I made mayonnaise. 

I’ve made mayonnaise a couple of times in my life, but never just as a basic thing.  I’m afraid to say that I’m normally perfectly satisfied with purchased mayonnaise–though I do have fierce brand loyalty to a specific organic brand made with canola oil–but whenever I want an interesting flavor, it’s inevitably something that I have to make on my own.  Yes, one can buy garlic mayonnaise (aioli, if one wants to be fancy), but can one buy mayonnaise with 2 heads of roasted garlic in each cup? 

This time, I wanted it with jalapenos.  Teacherman requested spicy foods for this party, and I went a little overboard with the chile recipes: when Teacherman came home from the grocery store he had 23 absolutely gargantuan jalapenos.  There was the cheddar-jalapeno bread, the herb-cheese-stuffed jalapenos, and <drumroll> the jalapeno-arugula mayonnaise. 

Mayonnaise is one of those things that I’m always trying to convince people is easy to make, but I must admit that its easiness is entirely predicated upon the fact that I own a food processor.  Back before food processors, to make mayonnaise, one had to whisk all the ingredients together by hand, while also drizzling the oil in minute drop by minute drop; pour in too much oil or whisk too slowly and the emulsion breaks and you end up with a bowl of eggy oil.  Thrilling.  A food processor, though, not only takes the whisking out of your hands, but even controls the amount of oil that one can add at a time. 

I don’t know if all food processors are like this, but mine has a tiny hole in the pusher (that is, the thing that fits inside the feed tube).  To make mayonnaise, all I do is whiz all the main ingredients together with the metal blade, then, with the machine still on, I pour the nearly the entire measure of oil into the pusher.  The oil drips through the aforementioned tiny hole and emulsifies perfectly with the base ingredients, creating mayonnaise. 

This time I whizzed up a jalapeno, a couple of garlic cloves, a handful each of spinach and arugula, an egg, some Dijon mustard, lemon juice, some salt and pepper.  Into the pusher went a half-and-half mixture of canola and olive oil.  By the time I was done washing my measuring spoons, I had a vibrant green and aromatic mayonnaise.  

I’m afraid, though, that inspite of all the ingredients, the taste was slightly one-dimensional.  The recipe called for the entire jalapeno, including the ribs and the seeds, resulting in an incendiary concoction that leaves the lips tingling for several minuts after eating. 

I think it might just need more mellowing time than I gave it.  I made the mayonnaise last night, when it was so hot that it set my eyebrows alight; tonight I can almost taste the peppery arugula in the background.  Given another day, the Dijon and lemon might add other notes and the heat might be further tempered.  A qualified success–now if only people had been hungry. . . . 

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Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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