A few years ago, if you had told me that I’d be writing this post today — about homemade mayonnaise and radishes — I would have said you were nuts. No, not “nuts”….
I have, for most of my life, despised anything containing mayonnaise as a prominent ingredient. I know many people love mayonnaise, and I’m certainly not arguing with the millions who do, but I was convinced it just wasn’t for me. Gloppy white potato salads? Ugh. “Macaroni salad” with the jiggly white stuff binding together overcooked, mushy elbow macaroni? Gag me. I avoided any kind of “club sandwich” because I knew there would be mayo hiding in a sneaky slick on the layers of bread. BLTs? I wanted to eat those, but I couldn’t get past the fact that mayo was a key ingredient. Actually, ordering sandwiches out — or catered lunches at work — was always treacherous territory…I’d been burned a few times with mayonnaise thickly coating the bread, gratis, like it was just assumed everyone would want it on their sandwich, right? Wrong. I love lobster rolls, but only the hot kind with melted butter dripping all over the lobster, please. And I only *recently* began eating chicken salad, but usually only the kind I make — with plain yogurt subbing in for most of the mayonnaise. (Oh, and um…I do love the chicken salad sandwich at Finale in Cambridge, MA. But that kind of doesn’t count, because I love mostly anything they have there.)
So, I suppose you could say that mayo and I have had a testy relationship to date.
And let’s discuss radishes: the only kind I’d ever tasted up until about 2 years ago were the supermarket kind, big and bulbous — pretty, no doubt — but way too aggressively “horseradish-y” for me. Any salad that had radishes sliced into it turned me off, and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could possibly eat them raw and not feel like their nasal passages were being assaulted. That, to me, was not a fun eating experience.
So imagine my surprise when, about 2 years ago, we got a bunch of Easter Egg radishes one week in our CSA share. “Danger, danger!” my horseradish radar screamed, but all I could think was “oooooooh, pretty!” I gazed, googly-eyed, at how gorgeous they were — all shades of rose, white, crimson and purple. “Okay,” I thought… “might as well give these one more try, once and for all.”
Well! Imagine my surprise when I actually liked them! These weren’t the violently hot radishes of the supermarket: these were delicate, crispy, with just a hint of bite at the end — just enough for a little interest. My world was rocked, to be sure.
Mayonnaise has been a more difficult beast to conquer. Over the past few years, I’ve found that I can tolerate the stuff in very small amounts, and usually when it’s mixed with another strong flavor that I like — basil mayo or chipotle mayo on a sandwich, garlic aioli, etc. — but I still would never choose to eat it.
All of this is to say, I was kind of shocked to find my interest piqued after reading a few articles recently about the glories of homemade mayonnaise. If you read Orangette or Bon Appetit, you’ve probably read Molly Wizenberg’s articles, waxing poetic about a similar trajectory from mayonnaise hate to mayonnaise love. After reading her stories, I wanted to see for myself: could making homemade mayonnaise turn me around?
This past weekend, the Ithaca Farmer’s Market was showing the first beautiful signs of spring: vegetables that I actually associate with spring (more than just the potatoes and root veg) have finally arrived — wahoo! My prize find this weekend was a bundle of French Breakfast Radishes, attractively slender, vibrantly colored, and just begging to be eaten raw.
Spring Radishes: my entry into the April 2008 CLICK event
Besides these radishes (and along with some other vegetables), I picked up some fresh chervil and lovely organic free-range eggs from Kingbird Farm. When I brought my loot home and was deciding what to make for lunch, I wanted to make some sort of dip for the raw radishes. I knew I had the eggs, and some nice fresh herbs…so, now was as good a time as any to embark on the homemade mayonnaise adventure!
I used the spring herb mayonnaise recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking with Shelburne Farms. It’s dead simple to make: two egg yolks go into your blender or food processor, along with some dijon mustard, champagne/white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. After those are blended, a light-tasting oil is drizzled in, slowly, until you have creamy, billowy pillows of pale, luscious yellow mayonnaise.
I have to admit I was kind of shocked at this point at how good it looked.
I folded in some freshly chopped chives, chervil and parsley…and snuck a little taste.
Holy moly. This stuff was actually good! No, not “good”….AMAZING. An entirely, wholly different creature from the gloppy, jiggly white storebought stuff, I would happily spread this on sandwiches, dip raw vegetables into it, use it as an aromatic skin facial…ha. No, just kidding on that last one, though it is dreamily rich and smooth, like a luxurious facial mask.
Anyway, we dipped our radishes into it, along with some slices of multigrain bread, also from the farmer’s market. It was a deliciously inspiring day for me: just goes to show you, it’s never too late for tastes to change, and good ingredients can make a world of difference in changing those tastes.
One last note — see those beautiful radishes a few pictures above? I’m entering them into this month’s CLICK! event, themed “au naturel;” entries for this round must highlight food in its natural state. The event is hosted by jugalbandi, and you can see all entries here.
Spring Herb Mayonnaise
2 egg yolks (good quality – preferably organic)
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 cup light-tasting oil such as grapeseed or light olive
1 teaspoon each of 3-4 finely minced fresh herbs: I used chives, chervil and parsley
In a blender or food processor, blend the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt until smooth. With the motor running, gradually drizzle the oil through the hole in the lid until the mayonnaise is thick and creamy.
Scrape the mayonnaise into a bowl and add the fresh minced herbs. Use a spatula to fold the herbs in, then taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
The mayonnaise will keep in the fridge for a day or two.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.