There’s something about spring that makes me want to make mayo. Not the processed food dreck that for some god-awful reason doesn’t require refrigeration and can sit on supermarket shelves for years at a time, but the fresh, wet, eggy, almost pudding-like mayonnaise that the Italians call aioli.
Mass-produced and homemade mayo share nothing but a name. The latter requires but three ingredients you likely already have on hand–egg, oil, salt. You need nothing but a whisk, a bowl and a serious amount of elbow grease to whip these pantry staples into a silken spread to be smeared across sandwiches or served as a dip for spring’s crunchy crudités like asparagus and radish. From this base recipe, it’s easy to boost the flavor profile of your aioli by adding seasonal mix-ins that pair with whatever meal you make. Garlic aioli is an obvious choice, and requires only that you mash a few garlic cloves and whisk them into your egg yolks. You could also stud your garlic mayo with slivered rings of garlic scapes or throw in a few wild ramps. Anchovies and their paste add a salty brine to mayos made for seafood dishes, whereas the run-off from sautéing steaks or mushrooms lends an earthy overtone perfect for dolloping atop prime rib.
With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, chipotle mayo may be the most apropos condiment for this weekend’s celebrations. Perfect to pair with classic Mexican dishes like elotes callejeros, fire-roasted corn salsa or my tequila-spiked mango guacamole, even Mr. Mix is a fan. Mayo is one of his five forbidden foods, but when made by hand (and referred to as aioli), he has been coaxed into conversion.
There’s something that feels inherently honest about busting out my mortar & pestle, grinding garlic cloves and spices, and whisking them into a slow, steady stream of oil. It’s a technique I first learned some years ago from reading master chef Alice Waters‘ recipe in the pages of The New York Times. But when short on time (or strength for that matter), or when making big ol’ batches of ailoi for The Dinner Belle, I simply make my mayo in a food processor. Either by hand or by machine, in under ten minutes tops I’m rewarded with a bowl of Mexican flavored mayo de Mayo that turns any feast into a fiesta.
• 2 cloves Garlic (peeled)
• 1 hefty pinch Sea Salt
• ½ t Cumin
• ½ t Chili Powder
• ½ t Oregano
• 1 organic Egg Yolk
• 1 cup Canola Oil
• 1 TB Spicy Mustard
• ½ tin of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
Grind garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle until smooth (or whisk in a food processor). Add spices and grind some more. Add your seasoned garlic paste to a bowl with your egg yolk and mix well with a whisk (or whiz together in the bowl of your food processor).
Back in your mortar and pestle or in the bowl of your food processor, grind the chipotles, add them to your aioli with the mustard, and blend until smooth. Using a measuring cup with a pour spout, slowly dribble in oil, whisking constantly (if using a food processor, pour oil into the liquid lid attachment for a steady, self-released drip). As the egg and paste mixture absorbs the oil, your mayo will thicken, lighten in color, and become opaque. This will happen rather quickly. Then you can your add oil a little faster, whisking all the while. If the sauce is thicker than you like, thin it out with a few drops of water. Your mayo is ready when you are, but if you let it set for a couple hours well chilled before serving, the flavors will get even bolder.