Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How To Make Mayonnaise

I've always read of people who, after eating the real thing, would never go back to store-bought mayonnaise. Mayo is one of those things that sits in my fridge for ages and I'm always a bit hesitant about its freshness when I open a jar. So when I wanted to try my hand at a salmon pasta dish, I thought I'd finally give homemade mayo a try.

The first two tries weren't anything special and I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Helman's actually tasted better. So, after some researching on the web, I came up with the following recipe which is a blend of several. After I made it, I understood about "not going back." This turned out super thick and rich, even more so the next day. Bliss on a soft-boiled egg or to dip warm asparagus spears into.

The trick is not to use egg whites. This calls for two egg yolks even though the original called for three. I used peanut and canola oil. It's important to use an oil that is not strong in taste and to add the oil slowly. Grapeseed and olive oils are fine, too.


2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of cayenne (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
or 2 tablespoons white tarragon vinegar
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon water

Wash the eggs before cracking. Put egg yolks, seasonings, lemon juice or vinegar, and 1/4 cup of the oil into a small food processor. Cover and pulse for a few seconds to incorporate ingredients. Now slowly dribble in the oil through the cap. Every-once-in-a-while, reverse speeds. You may not need to add all the oil. When thick, stop, remove top and with a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides. Replace the top and with motor running, dribble in the water.

Store unused mayonnaise in a covered container. Lasts for about 1 week. This turns even thicker and richer once refrigerated.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Green Onions, Mushrooms, New Potatoes and Goat Cheese

Before there was a Food Network or Gourmet Magazine, there was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which we get this little pearl of gastronomical wisdom: ". . . there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago.”

I’m so glad to see Disney filming The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven books by British author C.S. Lewis. This summer, they released the second book in the series, Prince Caspian. When I taught middle school, I taught them all to my sixth grade reading classes.

Recently, I heard from one of those students who is now an English professor in Florida! She readily confessed to swiping a whole set because “she loved the books too much” but couldn’t afford to buy them on her own. I'm happy to say she has them to this day.

I reassured her she wasn’t the only one. Turning a blind eye to a child’s love of books was part of my responsibility as a teacher. (Convincing my principal was another matter.)

One of the things I loved about that anthology was its expression of love for food and feasts. When Lewis wrote them before and after the brooding, dark days of World War II, food was genuinely scarce; but in Narnia, it was plentiful in one form or another from the gooey Turkish Delight to the menacing recipe for Man Pies.

In the first book, The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe, we are introduced to Mr. Tumnus, a faun, who enjoys sardines on toast and makes wonderful cakes to serve with his tea. Somewhere along the line, mushrooms come into play, and whenever I eat them, I fondly think of Narnia and the woodsy, earthy characters who inhabited that wonderful realm.

In 1998, The Narnia Cookbook was published by Lewis’ stepson. Sadly, it is now out of print. Used copies go for hundreds of dollars which many adults, let alone children, can't afford.

So, having said all that, I offer my own recipe in which I pay homage to that wonderful, magical land. It is perfectly respectful not to add the herbed goat cheese; but it’s addition certainly classes up this easy recipe with a simple richness that makes it a meal unto itself with a glass of wine and some crusty, artisan bread.

Mushrooms à la Narnia

8 ounces sliced button mushrooms (shitake are my favorite, though)
1 cup sliced green onions with tops
3-4 whole, canned new potatoes cut into chunks or thick slices (you won’t use the whole can)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon (more or less) dried thyme flakes
1/2 log, herb/garlic goat cheese, or to taste ( a couple tablespoons)
Olive oil
Kosher or Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Combine olive oil and butter in a stainless-steel frying pan and heat over medium/low heat until bubbly. Add mushrooms and green onions. Cook for a few minutes and then add the garlic and thyme. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and beginning to cook off their juices. Add the potatoes. Add a dozen or so fresh grinds from the pepper mill or to taste. Sprinkle with salt to taste. If too dry, add a bit more butter/olive oil. Stir. Now add the goat cheese and stir until it melts. Taste and season as necessary. Remove from heat and keep covered for about ten minutes or so to let the flavors blend.

Use a quality goat cheese and don't use plain for this recipe.