Archive for May, 2013

Asparagus with Mint Mayonnaise

May 26, 2013

photoMay Saturdays in Chicagoland see truckloads of fresh asparagus displayed in farmers’ markets. It’s the local-grown treat we’ve been waiting for since we savored the last crop almost a year ago. Primed for its pristine flavor picked just the day before, we haven’t been tempted by the tasteless supermarket-imported variety popping up year round. Now’s the time to indulge. Have it everyday; bring it to life in one of its many guises once you’ve had enough simply blanched and buttered. Try it in risotto, carbonara, soup, quiche, salads, creamed, grilled, roasted, hot, cold or raw. When you stop by your local farmers’ market, look for the purple variety with thick stalks for the best of the best.

At a recent family Sunday lunch of indoor picnic small plates, the highlight was a platter of fat purple asparagus just lifted from a four-minute boil in a bath of salted water. At the table it was room temperature and accompanied by a bowl of homemade mayonnaise lightened with chopped fresh mint from the garden. Take note: early herbs combine best with early crops.

Why make mayonnaise by hand when there’s a jar of the store-bought stuff in almost every fridge? Handmade mayonnaise is a world apart from the commercial, white variety, so much so you’ll hardly recognize it as a relative. It’s golden, richly flavored with good oil, a fresh egg yolk, pure lemon juice, a touch of French mustard, a pinch of good salt. This small recipe will give you half a cup and each teaspoon will royally dress vegetables, salads, or enrich sauces. All you need is a Pyrex bowl, a small whisk and a liquid measuring cup; no big blender or food processor to clean.

The mayonnaise will keep safely for a week or more in the fridge. Remember, the acid from the lemon juice will basically cook the egg yolk, and the salt is a preservative. Making this delectable sauce will take about 5 minutes—5 meditative minutes—as you reclaim a skill that once was part of everyday life.

Handmade Mayonnaise with Mint

1 egg yolk (organic or farm fresh) (freeze the white for meringue)

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1-2 teaspoons lemon juice

3-4 fl. oz. (1/3-1/2 cup) oil (2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus the remainder pure olive oil or vegetable oil)

pinch of salt,

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Place a 1-quart glass bowl on damp cloth on flat surface. Using a small stainless whisk, break up egg yolk with mustard and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Place oil in measuring cup with pouring lip. Dribble in oil a few drops at a time, whisking until the emulsion “takes”; then add the oil in a slow small stream stirring constantly. If sauce becomes too thick, add few more drops lemon juice or water.  Season with Kosher or sea salt and add mint just before serving. The mayonnaise may thin a little after the mint is added. Makes a generous half cup.

If the mayonnaise “splits” or the emulsion breaks, remove to a cup leaving a teaspoon in the bowl. Add another small dab of mustard and whisk in the broken sauce a half-teaspoon at a time until the mayonnaise regains its whipped consistency and proceed with the remainder of the oil.

book crop