Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Behold The Mayo

When my brother-in-law Dave fantasizes about making a meal from scratch, he means literally from scratch. Like the BLTs  we concocted for lunch last Saturday. Actually the project (yes, at our house, lunch can sometimes be a project) began the week before when Dave began curing a pork belly he had purchased from Tim Rocha at Kellie Brook Farm near Portsmouth.

First, Dave cured the pork belly in the fridge for five days, using a blend of pink salt, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, and maple syrup, a recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Then he smoked the pork over maple wood for six hours in his electric Bradley Smoker, one of the top ten best inventions of all time.

Now that we had a beautiful hunk of bacon, we were ready to head off to the Seacoast Grower's Market in Portsmouth in search of the rest of the ingredients for our ultimate summer sandwich. In anticipation, Dave had already prepared the dough for his special sourdough bread, which was rising in a warm spot in the sun room.

At market, we chose arugula from Nelson Farms and bought some green zebras from Garen of Back River Farm. When the time came to make lunch, we washed the lettuce, sliced the tomatoes and just-baked bread, and fried up the bacon. Then came the final task: whipping up some homemade mayonnaise, made with an organic egg purchased that morning from Charlie of Stone Wall Farm.

While I know all about the dangers of eating uncooked eggs--and only recommend that you do so with eggs you can trust--until you behold the taste of homemade mayonnaise, you won't believe the astonishing difference it makes with any sandwich, even if you haven't gone to the trouble of making the bread and bacon yourself.

Best of all, it's easy.We used the recipe for instant mayonnaise from Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, also by Michael Ruhlman, a fabulous reference book that every devoted home cook should own. Though we used the immersion blender, we whisked it at the end to incorporate just a little more air.

Michael Ruhlman's Instant Mayonnaise
(Works best with ingredients at room temperature)
1 large egg yolk, preferably organic or farm-raised
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil (or more as you need it, adjusting the lemon juice accordingly)

Combine the yolk, water, lemon juice, and salt in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring glass. Buzz it once with an immersion blender to mix. Add a few drops of oil, holding the blender to the bottom of the cup and blending until an emulsion forms, 2 to 3 seconds. With the blade running, pour the remaining oil slowly into the cup, beginning to lift the immersion blender up and down to incorporate all the oil. Once you start blending the process should take 15 to 20 seconds.

If you don't have an immersion blender: whisk the mayonnaise in a large bowl, with a dish towel twisted around the base to stablize it. Begin whisking the yolk, then drizzle in a few drops of oil, while whisking until the emulsion forms. Then whisk continuously, adding the remaining oil in a thin stream.

If the emulsion breaks: simply pour the mixture back into the oil cup, add a teaspoon of water to the empty bowl and a little more egg yolk, if you have it, then pour the broken mayonnaise drop by drop into the water, while whisking or blending to reform the emulsion. Continue to add the broken mayonnaise in a thin stream.

Makes 1/2 cup

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