Monday, May 3, 2010

Mayonnaise: the Stuff of Life

I recently read that Harp seal mommies nurse their pups for just 12 days before leaving them in the cold North Atlantic waters to search for food. The seal mother’s milk is thick enough to sustain the pup, in fact the book described it as “creamy and thick like mayonnaise.” Another reminder, this time from the animal kingdom, that mayonnaise is the stuff of life.

I come from mayonnaise people. I was raised on mayonnaise. We weren’t loyalists in my parents' house, all brands had a tryout - Kraft, Blue Plate, Hellmann’s and the staple of the South, Duke’s. There was an unfortunate, dark time of a healthy eating kick that meant strange mayo pretend-to-be’s were stocked. A lesson learned the hard way: mayonnaise needs real fat to taste good.

Mayonnaise is a constant thread through the kitchens I have known - my grandmother put mayonnaise in a celadon ceramic crock beside a plate of sliced garden tomatoes. My husband is from Macon, Georgia, and he remembers his grandma serving pound cake slices slathered in mayonnaise and fried. Mayonnaise is culinary glue - it holds together any number of salads - egg, pimento cheese, chicken, tuna, cole slaw, potato. As the basis of a sauce, it can dress up everything from fish to pasta.

Here is a menu celebrating the accessorizing power of mayonnaise and the Dorado that my husband caught last week. It’s a little South of France meets Heart of Dixie, and a tribute to the universality of mayonnaise, a sauce which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, came to France by way of Spain. I used the mayonnaise from a jar, but the recipes are easily adapted to homemade mayo. Follow Francis Lam’s detailed instructions or my streamlined cheat sheet:

Pan-Fried Dorado Sliders with Spicy Tartar Sauce
Fish Stew with Red Pepper Aioli
Fried Pound Cake

Pan Fried Dorado Sliders with Spicy Tartar Sauce
For the sliders, I dredged chunks of Dorado in seasoned flour and cornmeal and fried them until done. I served them on mini buns with shredded cabbage and this spicy tartar sauce.

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
10 pickled jalapeƱo rounds, minced
Three teaspoons dill pickle relish
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together. Make ahead for better flavor. Store in refrigerator.

fish stew

Fish Stew with Red Pepper Aioli

Fish stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, chopped, use the whites and part of the greens
1 cup white wine
2 cups shrimp stock or clam juice or water
4 cloves garlic
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1/2 pound fish fillets, chopped into bite-size pieces

1. In a stockpot, saute carrot and leeks in olive oil until soft. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add stock or clam juice or water, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fish and cook for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve with red pepper aioli.

Red pepper aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
1 roasted, peeled and seeded red bell pepper
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, with blade running, drop in garlic cloves. Add bell pepper and process until pasty. Add remaining ingredients and process. Make a day ahead for better flavor. Store in refrigerator.

fried pound cake

Fried Pound Cake
This is my husband's childhood treat, a slice of pound cake, buttered on both sides with mayonnaise and cooked on a griddle. It's sweet and salty at the same time. I would say add sweetened berries and whipped cream, but it's pretty indulgent on its own.

© 2010, Lucy Mercer.
Fish Stew and Red Pepper Aioli adapted from the New California Cook by Diane Rossen Worthington.
Spicy Tartar Sauce adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.
Fried Pound Cake adapted from a fine country cook.

1 comment:

Pedro Soto said...

Mayonnaise is the noblest of all emulsions!