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Make Your Own Mayonnaise While You’re Making Egg Salad

Shells from eggs laid by Aracauna hens
Carol Egbert photograph

Shells from eggs laid by Aracauna hens Carol Egbert photograph

Recently, after I had decided to make egg salad to serve with tomato soup for a simple dinner, I discovered that there was no mayo in the fridge. Rather than hopping in the car and driving to the market, I decided that the basket of eggs I had been given by a neighbor and the staples in my pantry were all I needed to make both mayonnaise and egg salad.

The eggshells ranged in color from creamy white to warm brown, with shades of pale blue and soft gray green, more beautiful than eggs dyed for an Easter basket. Aracauna hens laid the blue and green eggs. It had never occurred to me that chickens had ears until Suzy, my friend who knows everything about chickens, explained that the color of each hen’s eggs matches the color of that hen’s ears.

Mayo is an emulsion of oil suspended in a beaten raw egg, stabilized by lecithin in both the mustard and the egg yolks, and flavored with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. With all of the ingredients in place, all I needed was a fork and a dinner plate to make nearly a cup and a half of mayonnaise. Here’s how I made it:

Mayonnaise

1 egg

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

a pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup canola oil

I put a damp tea towel under a dinner plate to keep it from sliding about and cracked the egg onto it. The fresh egg had a golden yolk surrounded by viscous, clear egg white. I mixed the egg, the lemon juice, kosher salt, Dijon mustard and cayenne until the salt had dissolved and the mixture was smooth. Then I poured the olive oil and canola oil into a measuring cup.

I beat constantly as I added the oil, slowly, very slowly, drop by drop, making sure that each drop was incorporated before adding the next. After I had incorporated a couple of teaspoons of oil, I was able to slowly increase the quantity of each addition. If oil is added too quickly, the emulsion will break or separate. If this happens, you can begin again by combining a second egg and half a teaspoon of mustard on a second plate and slowly adding the “broken” mayo to this mixture. The mayo thickened as the oil was incorporated — more oil means thicker mayo. The total amount of oil depends on the size of the egg and the desired consistency. I put the finished mayo into a jar, labeled it and put it in the fridge.

The flavor of mayo can be varied by using cider, red wine or sherry vinegar or lime juice instead of lemon juice, or by adding chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, thyme or tarragon or spice blends such as curry powder or chili powder. Grape seed or walnut oil can be substituted for the canola or olive oil. Homemade mayo is the perfect topper for poached fish or as the glue that holds a cucumber or watercress tea sandwich together. When flavored with curry powder and stirred into chicken salad, it raises that age-old question, “Which came first — the chicken or the egg?” My favorite egg salad started with four eggs — two for each serving. Here’s how I made it:

Egg Salad

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

1 generous Tablespoon mayo

I put the eggs into a medium saucepan and covered them with cold water, brought the water to a rolling boil, covered the pot and turned off the burner. I left the eggs in the water in the covered pot for 15 minutes and then replaced the hot water with cold. I tapped the eggs under water against the side of the pan to crack the shells. Boiled fresh eggs are more difficult to shell than those that are less fresh, so leaving the eggs to soak in the cold water for a few minutes made it easier to separate the shell from the egg.

I used a small food processor to finely chop the eggs before I stirred in the Dijon mustard, dill, a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper, a tiny bit of cayenne pepper, and the mayo to make a bowl of creamy egg salad.

Egg salad served with warm, crusty toast and a bowl of tomato soup made a simply delicious, and easy, dinner.

Carol Egbert lives in Quechee. Her food blog can be found at http://www.carolegbert.com.