We all have food memories, good ones and bad ones. Both kinds tend to stay with us forever, and influence our future food choices. The memory of a good bearnaise lingers through several of my food memories. An average hotel luncheon that was elevated by a good bearnaise flavored with fresh tarragon. A happy company holiday dinner at Colony Square in Atlanta that included a bright lemony shallot bearnaise. Pork medallions laced with mustard bearnaise on a breezy patio overlooking sunset on beautiful Acapulco bay on my honeymoon.
Although bearnaise and mayonnaise are “sauce siblings”, those bearnaise memories never intersected in my brain with mayonnaise!
I have never been a mayo lover. Just a tiny bit of liquid fat on a sandwich to moisten the bread is fine but I have never depended on it to deliver flavor. Why? Because I wasn’t thinking fresh mayonnaise. I was using store bought mayo, and it does not remotely resemble homemade mayo. Bearnaise IS mayo, albeit lifted with butter instead of oil.
Make your own mayo and you will be astounded at the flavor, regardless of whether you use butter (bearnaise) or oil (mayonnaise) as the emulsifier.
When you make homemade mayo, you WILL make it again and again and again and wonder why you haven’t made it before!
The recipe that follows is a ranch mayo flavored with chives, but the basic recipe is adaptable to just about any flavor profile. Go traditional and use butter for the fat, champagne vinegar and grated shallot, then toss in some freshly minced tarragon and you’ll have the best fresh bearnaise! Use olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some minced garlic and rosemary and it will be a fabulous mediterranean mayo.
You can double or triple the recipe for larger amounts, but I prefer to make it in small batches so it gets used quickly. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature for optimal emulsification (microscopic fat droplets suspended in your ingredients).
Yes, this recipe calls for making a sauce out of raw egg yolk and that may not be safe for the young, elderly or people with compromised immune systems. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and use pasteurized eggs (make sure the container says pasteurized).
Homemade Ranch Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed or 1 tablespoon prepared dijon mustard*
1/2 teaspoon finely minced or grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly minced chives
pinch freshly ground black pepper
Place egg yolk, honey, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and salt in a shallow bowl and whisk together. Gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons of oil, a few dribbles at a time and whisk until completely blended. Continue adding oil 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition.
You will notice the mixture becoming thicker as you add oil and the mixture becomes emulsified. It will begin to fall in a thick ribbon when you lift the whisk from the mixture. Continue adding oil until the mixture is at the thickness you desire (for a mayo consistency, it should begin to look jellyish and stick to the whisk in thicker clumps).
You may not need all of the oil called for, taste a little as you near the end and stop whisking in oil when you arrive at the taste and texture you want.
Next stir in the minced chives and black pepper, taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt if needed.
*You can find a recipe for homemade mustard here: Homemade Marsala Mustard
The first time you make this, I recommend whisking by hand. It’s great exercise, and if you alternate left and right hand whisking you’ll exercise your brain too! You also see first hand how it comes together. If you get too tired, put the whisk down and pull out your hand mixer. Just be careful not to overmix or drizzle in too much oil at one time or it will “break” the mayo (separate). If it does break, try whisking in a little more egg yolk. Broken mayo will still taste the same, it just won’t be pretty!