Mayonnaise is one of the few miracles of French cuisine that has become common in modern-day America. Sadly, we mostly eat mass-produced mayo from a jar, which -- though it's far from the worst prepared food in the world -- tastes nowhere near as good as homemade.
To make by hand: Put the yolk and mustard in a medium bowl. Beat together with a wire whisk. Begin to add the oil in dribbles as you beat, adding more as each amount is incorporated. You'll notice when a thick emulsion forms, then you can add the remaining oil a little faster. Depending on how fast you beat, the whole process will take about 5 minutes.
To make by machine: Put the yolk and mustard in a blender or food processor and turn the machine on. While it's running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. When an emulsion forms, you can add it a little faster, until all the oil is incorporated.
Garlic Mayonnaise (Aioli): A Mediterranean classic, strong stuff, but addictive. Peel 3 to 8 cloves garlic, to taste. If mixing by hand, mince; if using a machine, roughly chop. Use at least half olive oil (you can go all the way if you like) and proceed with the recipe, adding the garlic in Step 2.
Chile Mayonnaise: Use mild chiles, like ancho, or hot like Thai or dried chipotle. Soak one or two dried chiles in warm water until soft. Drain and pat dry. Or use 1 canned chipotle and a little of its adobo sauce. If mixing by hand, mince the chiles; if using a machine, roughly chop. Add the chile in Step 2.
Roasted Pepper Mayonnaise: Pretty and complex. Add 1 roasted red pepper or use yellow or orange. If mixing by hand, mince; if using a machine, roughly chop. Add the pepper in Step 2.
Green Sauce, French Style: Easier by machine. After the mayonnaise is made in Step 2, add to the blender or processor 1 sprig fresh tarragon, about 10 sprigs watercress (thick stems removed), 10 chives, and the leaves from 5 parsley stems. Process until not quite pureed but definitely green. Cold Mustard Sauce: Fabulous sandwich spread. Add 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard along with the other ingredients in Step 2. Thin with a tablespoon or two of cream-fresh, fraiche, or sour-to the desired consistency.
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