Having lived there for half a decade, Berkeley is one of my favorite cities in the world, besides Rome and San Francisco anyway. So, whenever I have the opportunity to go, I do. Today I had gotten less than half price tickets for a production of "Narnia" at the Julia Morgan Playhouse. As always, we made a day of it, eating our way across the city.
Before the 11 o'clock curtain, we paused at the Summer Kitchen + Bake Shop in the Elmwood district for a quick snack. Riley had a slice of carrot cake, Jake chose a wedge of chicken-potato-red pepper quiche, Dylan had a chocolate cupcake with marscarpone frosting, and I ordered egg salad with homemade mayonnaise and fresh chives. Everything was fabulous.
I am typically not a mayonnaise fan. In fact, on rare occasion that I order a sandwich, I always request, "no mayo, please." But I am a sucker for homemade mayonnaise. Years ago I took a sauces class - from Chef Dave Wells - at WholeFoods. We learned the five mother sauces, we ate, and we drank. It was an unforgettable evening.
Homemade mayonnaise is very different from the kind you find on the shelf of a grocery store. For one, homemade mayo is not white. It's creamy, almost yellow. Its flavor is subtle; the mere fact that is has flavor sets it apart from the grocery store variety!
And, thankfully, it's fairly easy to make. Mayo is an emulsion of oil and egg yolks with a splash of acidity. I have long since lost my handouts from that cooking class, but I have adapted from a recipe that I found on allrecipes.com.
1 C olive oil or other good-quality oil, such as walnut or sweet almond oil
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon, or vinegar
A pinch of salt (and pepper, if desired)
Water to thin the mayonnaise
Combine the egg and acid in the bowl, whisking to mix. You can make mayonnaise in a food processor or by hand, with a mixing bowl and whisk. The key for either method: add oil very slowly, in a steady stream, while the processor is running or you're whisking vigorously.
If the mayonnaise starts looking too thick, add enough water to thin it to the consistency you desire. Add about a teaspoon of water at a time. When the oil is all mixed in, the mayonnaise should be thick and fluffy, with your whisk forming ribbons through the mixture.
If it never thickened and you're stirring a puddle, chances are you will need to start over. (Or, if you're still partway through the process, you can save the emulsion by adding another egg yolk, whisking vigorously. Add in remaining oil, plus extra for a double recipe.)
Adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper and more acid, if desired.