Even if I didn’t know that chef Don Maruyama is a teacher it would have been easy to tell. When we met so he could teach me how to make mayonnaise and aioli, he presented me with a thick folder of reading material, copies of pages from culinary textbooks and several food sites.
He also arranged it so that even though he was around to share his expertise, the actual demonstrations came from two of his newer colleagues in the Leeward Community College culinary program, Matt Egami and Chris Garnier. It was his way of introducing us and providing me with various perspectives on the tasks.
Very organized, very efficient — very teacherly. Here’s what I took away from these three experts.
I’ll begin with definitions: Mayonnaise is a combination of egg yolks, acid and oil, whipped together until they emulsify. Aioli is traditionally a garlic mayonnaise.
Mayo is food science in action. In the proper ratios and following proper procedure, ingredients become a uniform, homogenous mixture — emulsified.
Acid, in the form of lemon or some type of vinegar, added to the yolk, aids in emulsification. Some recipes also call for mustard, another natural emulsifier. To these ingredients, oil is added. The lecithin in the yolk coats the oil, which helps form the emulsion.
The key to success here is that the oil is added slowly in a thin stream and whisked rapidly, which allows the mayo to come together.
The process takes some care. A mixture that’s already emulsifying could break apart (meaning the elements separate) if ingredients become too hot (a danger when using a food processor, as the blades move so quickly that they generate heat), are too cold, or oil is added too quickly. Room-temperature ingredients are best.
A mayo also could suddenly break if it gets too thick. Avert the problem by monitoring the consistency and adding small amounts of water or acid to loosen the mixture.
To fix a broken mayo: In a new bowl, add another yolk and whisk until foamy, then drizzle in the broken mayo slowly. Adjust seasoning. Another option: In a blender on high, drizzle broken mayo into a commercial mayo.
But if things go well, add some salt to taste, and you’ve got homemade mayo that lasts in the fridge about three days. Though it may not have the longevity of commercial mayonnaise, it’s way more ono — especially because you can season it to your liking.
The chefs told me they saw YouTube videos of mayonnaise mixed with an immersion blender, so I looked it up and tried it along with whisking by hand. Making mayo with a whisk is easy except for the strain on the arm muscles. But it’s hard not to turn to the immersion blender — that took mere seconds. Simply place yolk, acid and seasoning in a cup, cover with oil, then place blades over yolk and go. As the mixture emulsifies, raise the blender to incorporate all the oil.
Speaking of seasoning, aioli in traditional form is a mayonnaise that includes fresh, minced garlic and is made with olive oil. Europeans appreciate the olive-oil base, which adds an amazing amount of richness. In fact, says Maruyama, traditional aioli is too rich for most American palates. Rather, a combination of olive and neutral oils is better suited to our taste.
Aioli can be wonderfully varied because flavors can be adjusted substantially, said Garnier, who demonstrated making aioli in a food processor.
“You can play with the density with the amount of oil you put in,” he said. “More oil means a rich, heavier, denser, thicker aioli. Less oil makes it looser and thinner.”
Garnier tasted and tasted some more as he started and stopped the processor, adding a pinch more salt here, a dab of mustard there.
“Vinegar is nice to use because it gives a punch of flavor. And some recipes call for two acids, with the lemon for flavor,” he said. “With just a small amount of ingredients, you can get so many flavors and tastes.”
He proved his point with an aioli that delivered a depth of flavor and a vibrant punch.
As bystanders dipped spoons in the sauce and oohed and ahhed, Egami latched on to the teaching moment.
“Did you see how much Chris tasted the sauce?” he asked. “The key point is you’ve got to keep tasting.”
- 1 egg yolk, room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dry or wet)
- 6 to 8 ounces neutral oil (grapeseed or canola, for instance)
In bowl, whisk yolk, lemon juice or vinegar and mustard until frothy.
In thin stream, drizzle oil into egg mixture while whisking rapidly to form emulsion. Add oil slowly or mixture may fail to emulsify.
For aioli: Add about 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic.
Mayonnaise as a base
Mayonnaise is the foundation for many sauces and dressings, including aioli. If this is how you’ll use your homemade mayo, it’s important to use a neutral oil so that flavors are easily adapted.
>> Remoulade sauce: This is something like a tartar sauce. It incorporates capers, cornichons, anchovies, Worcestershire and Tabasco.
>> Russian dressing: mayo with chili sauce and horseradish.
>> Green goddess dressing: includes sour cream, parsley, chives, tarragon and anchovy paste.
>> Roquefort dressing: mayo with Roquefort cheese, sour cream and Worcestershire.
While traditional aioli uses raw, minced garlic, contemporary preparations may use roasted garlic or none at all. In fact, “aioli” has come to encompass any flavored mayo. These ideas come courtesy of chefs Matt Egami and Chris Garnier:
>> Herbs: Tarragon with traditional aioli is a mainstream European combination. Or use less-assertive herbs such as oregano, basil and thyme.
>> Mediterranean: Pesto, tapenade or sun-dried tomato
>> Spicy: Cayenne or Japanese shichimi pepper.
>> Asian: Masago, furikake, dash sesame oil (for taste, not to replace oil in mayo recipe).
Cooking with aioli
>> Aioli can be a condiment for vegetables, eggs, fish and other foods. For instance, dynamite sushi with spicy aioli drizzle.
>> Spread over bread and bake, for bruschetta.
>> Spread over salmon and broil. Or coat opah or ono with aioli, toss in panko and bake.
>> Grill shrimp with aioli. For a seafood casserole, combine chunks of fish, shrimp and other seafood with shiitake mushrooms and other vegetables, toss in aioli and bake.