Growing up, there was nothing I hated more than mayonnaise. NOTHING.
The idea of putting mayonnaise on a sandwich repulsed me. It still does, actually. I mean: if it’s a burger and there’s mayonnaise on it, I’ll overlook it because it blends with all the juices and the ketchup and the mustard and makes something of a sauce. But a turkey sandwich with JUST mayo? Blech! Nothing repulses me more.
I really don’t have a good reason to give you. The best I can do is: plain mayo just tastes like whipped, flavorless synthetic fat. It wasn’t until I made mayo by hand–with an egg yolk and oil–that I finally let go of my mayo-phobia and began to understand it for what it was. But even then, plain mayo from a jar still grosses me out. Unless you transform it by turning it into a sauce.
And that’s what this post is about: turning mayo into a sauce. It’s not very hard to do. For example, that plate at the top of this post? That’s a chicken breast I roasted in the oven with salt and pepper and paprika served alongside some roasted asparagus with toasted bread crumbs. It would have been a nice dinner by itself, but it needed some zip. Enter mayo.
If I’d spooned out a big mound of mayo and placed it next to that chicken, I would’ve gagged it would’ve grossed me out so much. But instead, I put the mayo in the bowl, added whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, some sour cream, salt, pepper and–this is wild!–a splash of the rose I was drinking, stirred it all around and–voila!–a sauce.
Let’s give credit where credit is due: credit to the Barefoot Contessa. She makes many mayo-based sauces on her show, and usually I roll my eyes and scream, “Ina! That’s gross! Make a sauce from scratch!” But now that I’ve made some mayo-based sauces, I have to acknowledge: it’s a pretty clever thing to do.
Clever because most sauces are emulsifications of fat and egg yolk and when you use mayo, you don’t have to do any emulsifying–the emulsifying is already done. So instead of melting butter and whisking egg yolk over a double boiler, gently adding the butter drip by drip hoping the sauce doesn’t break, you have a yolky, flavorful base right in a jar. And the food purists among you may scoff, but not everyone has time to make a hollandaise or a bernaise. Some of us just want something sauce-like on the plate and we’ll be happy.
Like when I made steak for some friends the other night:
Of course, I used the flawless technique from my Food2 video (this time using flank steak because it’s cheaper). I roasted some sweet potato wedges (also form Ina) and then made a sauce using mayo, jarred horseradish (lots of it!), whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, sour cream, salt and pepper. The horseradish really was a boon to this whole plate: the steak would’ve been good by itself, but with an easy horseradish sauce? It was out of this world.
I bet with mayo you can concoct a whole universe of easy sauces. I bet you could add chiles in adobo for something fiery and dangerous; you could add cornichons and capers for something like a Tartar sauce (which I did a few weeks ago when I made a fish sandwich). The possibilities are endless. Just don’t put the mayo on bread with turkey and call it a sandwich: that’s disgusting. Only when it’s part of a sauce, is mayonnaise my friend.
When it comes to sauce-making, we all have a friend in mayo.