Really? The New Bacon?
Not just for tuna salad anymore, this humble condiment is having a moment in the culinary spotlight. Mayonnaise, normally relegated to sandwiches and potato salad, might just be the new bacon as far as food trends go. Its campy, lowbrow, a little white trash, but delicious on a seemingly inexhaustible number of foods. Notice the similarities? Mayo and bacon all comprise parts of the larger culinary trend of upscale-lowbrow food items. Our taste for better ingredients and quality may have changed, but our cravings for the nostalgic foods we grew up with remains intact. Amidst molecular gastronomy and other deceptive foods that look one way and taste another, people want some familiarity, but their palates have been elevated. Hence gourmet mayo, heritage slab bacon, truffle mac & cheese, and foie gras burgers.
Where To Find It:
Enter Empire Mayonnaise Co. – the Brooklyn based storefront that sells one thing and one thing only: mayonnaise. They sell upwards of 850 jars of the stuff each week, at $6 a pop, no less. Founded in 2011 by Sam Mason (formerly of NYC’s WD-50), Empire Mayo sets itself apart through quality. They use non-GMO oil and organic, pasture raised eggs, and local, seasonal flavors in their specialty varieties. Each jar is produced by hand, and sold either in their small Brooklyn shop, online, or through one of their retail distributors, including Dean and DeLuca, West Elm, Smorgasburg. It’s also served up at several local NYC hotels. People can scoff and satirize Empire Mayo all they want, but they sure can’t argue with their sales achievements. You can laugh, but people are snapping this stuff up.
How To Make It At Home:
If spending six bucks on a jar of artisanal mayo is just too much for you to bear, at least consider making your own batch at home. Toss out that preservative riddled, corn-syrup laden commercial variety lurking in your fridge and grab a whisk. You don’t even have to dirty your blender or food processor to achieve a successful mayo. In culinary school we were forbidden from using anything but a whisk to make emulsified sauces like mayo, and after a while your arm feels as if its going to fall right off, but for one batch you’ll be fine. Whisking by hand also keeps the mayo from overheating in the machine, and gives you greater control over your finished product.
Here’s my simplified recipe:
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp. cold water
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup mild oil (try canola, safflower, grape seed)
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt (more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper (more or less to taste)
In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the cold water until well combined and lightened. Add the mustard and whisk again. While whisking, slowly stream in the oil into the yolk, drop by drop in the beginning, then slowly increasing your speed as the emulsifying takes hold (when in doubt- go slow the whole time). Next whisk in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and check your seasoning. If you want a thinner mayo, just thin it out with a bit of water. You can also substitute some extra virgin olive oil for some of your mild oil for a more robust flavor.
How To Amp Up The Flavor:
If you want to get creative and take a page out of Empire Mayo’s book, try some flavorful mix-ins:
- Minced garlic muddled in a mortar and pestle with a bit of salt until smooth and creamy
- A healthy squirt of everyone’s favorite spicy chili condiment: Sriracha
- A few anchovies worked in a mortar and pestle until smooth
- Bacon (its everywhere)- You can use some bacon fat in place of your oil for a truly bacon flavored mayo, or just chop in some small pieces
- Minced mint, basil and garlic (fantastic with lamb)
- Dill and lemon zest (perfect with salmon)
How To Use It:
What to do with all this gourmet homemade (or store-bought) mayo? You can use it in the obvious ways, or try some of the suggestions below.
- Use it to marinate steaks, lamb, chicken, fish, anything really. It tenderizes, keeps everything juicy, and leaves a nice crust when cooked.
- Toss it with warm pasta (don’t make a face, it’s just egg yolk and oil), you’ll get a rich, creamy pasta sauce in one easy step. Finish with parmesan cheese, fresh arugula, and lemon.
- Kick up your deviled eggs recipe with a flavored variety listed above.
- Use it as a sauce for asparagus- it acts just like hollandaise, but holds better.
- Make Mexican corn- roll a corn cob in mayo, sprinkle on parmesan cheese and chili pepper, wrap in foil, and grill. Serve with lime wedges.
- Use it as a dip for cooked shrimp- try the Sriracha variety above.
- Use mayo in place of egg as a dredge for breading or panko. It forms a crispy, tender crust like nobody’s business.
Photo Credit: Empire Mayonnaise Co.
Graduate of Hamilton College and the French Culinary Institute with a Degree in Classic Culinary Arts. Cooking is my favorite way to bring friends and family together. It’s been a part of my life since the days when I needed the help of both my dad and a chair to reach the kitchen sink.