My mother is appalled at the eating habits in my household. I should say, she is appalled anew because, every Summer, when she arrives, she needs to re-acquaint herself with my sporadic dinners, the abundance of cereal and hot oatmeal instead of proper meals.
“And why is there no bread?”
I explain, again, that if I don’t buy it, there is little chance I will eat it and, anyway, finding a good loaf in Los Angeles is as hard as finding a proper New York bagel. America has mastered coffee but it still lags behind in the bread department. At least, for my taste.
In the last week, my mother and I reached a truce: she will cook dinner three times a week but, the rest of the time, I must be left to my own eating devices.
Everything about having my mother here takes me back to my childhood: convivial dinners; memories of my favorite dishes and of all the ones I despise (ossobuco, for instance); and those I always took for granted and never had again the moment I moved out.
I learnt to make my favorites over the years, in the exact manner my mother makes them so my palate is tricked into thinking some things have the power to never change. Others, I never bothered with or, at least, I never bothered to be exacting. Mayonnaise, for example.
My mother would serve most fish dishes with a simple mayo she would whip up in a few minutes by whisking an egg yolk with a light olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Perfection in the form of a silky and smooth mayonnaise, that bears little resemblance to anything store-bought, would ensue. Never once do I remember it breaking.
The reason why I never make mayonnaise by hand is, mostly, laziness – why take out the whisk when the blender would achieve pretty much the same result? I have also become very Californian and wary of eating raw eggs. Until last night, when I was cooking salmon and asked my mom to make me proper mayo.
In less than five minutes she was done – the fish, baked simply with lemon slices and capers was vaulted into a different plane of tastiness. Or, at the very least, I was vaulted 30 years back.
For 4 people, start with two egg yolks, room temperature.
Place them in a bowl and, using a whisk or a spoon, whisk with one hand – always in the same direction – while, with the other, you pour oil in a steady stream, stopping now and then to check for consistency. The key to a good mayo is a light olive oil, possibly fruity, but nothing too nutty or too dark green. You can lighten up what you have on hand by mixing it with some light canola or other vegetable, and fairly tasteless oil.
Keep on whisking until you reach the consistency of a smooth custard. Add salt, pepper and a dash of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Alternatively, follow the same method but use a blender instead of your own hand.
Egg image courtesy of the Huffington Post