Flash in the Pan 

Mayonnaise: The story of the special creme

Fat is flavor. It’s what makes food taste good. Those of you who are against fat, read elsewhere.

The Duc de Richelieu first tasted the special creme in the 1600s while visiting Mahon, a city on the Spanish island of Minorca. He took the recipe back to France, where it was dubbed Mahonaisse by French chefs. As the delicacy spread throughout Europe, it was a food for the elite.

In America, it became known as mayonnaise. But for more than a century it was used only under the most posh circumstances. Enter Richard Hellman, a German immigrant. In 1912, Hellman began packing mayonnaise into jars and selling it out of his New York deli. This mayonnaise-slinger-for-the-people grew into a viable business of its own, blossoming into Hellman’s Mayonnaise, which to this day is considered by many to be the one true mayo. For some reason unknown to Chef Boy Ari, Hellman’s is known as Best Foods west of the Mississippi. But don’t let that bother you, true believer. Whether going by the name Hellman’s or Best Foods, it is the same animal: a highly reliable, eminently dole-able and fully respectable version of the special creme.

I sure don’t know a lot about this big ol’ goofy world, but I do know this: Whatever it is, it’s better with mayo. All of it is just something to put mayo on.

My own personal mayonnaise story began when I decided that I wanted to eliminate milk products from my life. I began feeling better almost instantly, but the toughest part of the transition was eliminating the cheese, which had become a mainstay in my cooking. I sho do likka da cheese.

Without cheese, food wasn’t quite food, until I had my breakthrough in the form of a big white dollop that resembled a rule-breaking plop of sour cream. Not sour cream. Special creme. Dollop of dollops, mortar of life, gluing together all of the glitter. Don’t get me started.

Pasta with red sauce? It goes great with the special creme. Fried rice? It goes great with the special creme. Steak? Toast? Soup? Yes, yes, YES!! At this point, some of you are probably thinking “Chef Boy Ari, you are weird and gross.” If you are one of those people, you are speaking from ignorance. Those of you with true experience are nodding your heads knowingly. Hang around one of us long enough, and you too will soon be reaching for the cream of liquid chicken.

In case anyone is wondering, I don’t just plunge the mayonnaise spoon into just the jar of just any special creme. Some I like better than others. My favorite is called “Mystic Lakes Creamery.” It’s got just the right balance of sweet, cream, and other subtle flavors to bring out the best in the food, without overpowering anything. If I can’t get my #1 brand, than I’ll go with Best Foods. It’s a solid choice. By the way, I highly recommend the “mayonnaise cake” recipe on the side of the Best Foods jar.

You can also make your own creme, and there is no limit to the possible variations. At this point I must advise you that homemade mayo contains raw eggs. According to Lynn Paul of the Montana State University Extension Service in Bozeman, raw eggs can contain salmonella. People with compromised immune systems, as well as the young, old, and pregnant among us, need to be especially careful. The risk is similar to the risk in “sunny side up” eggs. In fact, they no longer serve “sunny side up” eggs in nursing homes, because of the health risk.

However, my New Year’s resolution was to make at least as much mayo as I buy. Therefore, I must push on, undaunted. Besides, remember the movie Rocky? Rocky ate raw eggs, and look at all of those muscles!

Here is how I make it. As with any food, the final product will only be as good as your raw materials. So I always use the freshest and best of everything when it comes to the special crème:

1 tsp Dijon mustard

3/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup oil ( I go with a combination of high-grade extra-virgin olive oil and grapeseed oil)

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp wine or cider vinegar

Blend mustard, salt, and eggs in a blender for one minute. Then add oil, slowly at first, while blending. Last, add the lemon juice and vinegar. At this point, what you will have in your blender will be special creme. You can also spice it up with a little minced garlic (add it with the eggs). Garlic mayo goes by the name “aeoli.” My personal favorite, which I call “green creme,” not only has garlic, but a few leaves of baby spinach (added with garlic). I tell you, there ain’t nothin’ like the green creme, baby...” 

E-mail Chef Boy Ari: Flash@missoulanews.com

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