Don't hold the mayo

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

It's not hard to understand why mayonnaise has a happy history and a secure place among cooks' favorite allies in presenting dishes.

Store-bought or homemade, classic or spiced up, the creamy emulsion makes an easy dip or an effortlessly rich sauce, and smoothly complements countless other ingredients.

Top chefs use it in classic as well as creative dishes on their menus, ranging from steak sauces to creamy tea sandwiches. Following are a few of their recipes.

Chef and co-owner Waldy Malouf of Beacon restaurant in New York City is a fan. "Mayonnaise-based sauces add bold flavor to bland foods. They're great for parties because they let each guest decide how much sauce to put on his or her food," he says.

His tarragon mayonnaise dip is a favorite with diners because it is a good complement for both vegetables and fried foods. It can also be used with cold seafood and in sandwiches.

Tarragon Mayonnaise Dip

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, plus additional to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Variation: For a spicier version of this dip add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce or horseradish to taste, and 1 tablespoon of brandy.

Executive chef David Walzog of Strip House, Livingston, N.J., says his chive dipping sauce is the most commonly requested sauce on the menu by those in the know. He recommends it with crudites, or light, flaky fish such as snapper or bass.

Chive Dipping Sauce

2 cups fresh chives (4 ounces)

1/2 jalapeno pepper, roasted, peeled and deseeded

2 tablespoons water

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground coriander

Roughly chop the fresh chives and, using a blender, puree the chives and jalapeno together until smooth, using 2 tablespoons water to allow them to puree. In a mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise and the sour cream; stir together. Add the lemon zest and juice, kosher salt and ground coriander; stir well. Add the chive-jalapeno mixture to this, combine and let stand for 2 or 3 hours before serving.

Makes 2 cups.

Chef Alfred Portale of New York City's Gotham Bar and Grill makes a ginger mayonnaise, which he uses to dress pasta salad.

Ginger Mayonnaise

8 ounces fresh ginger

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

1 cup olive oil

1 cup canola oil

1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with a sprinkle of salt

Using the medium-fine holes of a cheese grater, grate the ginger. In batches, wrap the ginger in the corner of a piece of cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel and squeeze to extract the juice into a small bowl. You should have 1/4 cup of juice.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl, along with the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and the white and cayenne peppers. Using a whisk or hand blender set on low speed, add the oils, drop by drop, to the egg mixture. After the mayonnaise begins to thicken, add the oils a bit faster. When all the oil has been absorbed, beat in the ginger juice and garlic.

Taste carefully; the mayonnaise should have a little heat to its flavor, with a bright, citrus edge. Add more lemon juice, salt and white and cayenne peppers, as needed.

The mayonnaise will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

Makes about 2 cups.

Chef Eric Blauberg of New York City's "21" Club is known for his old-fashioned steak and the special sauce he tops it with.

Old-Fashioned Steak Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter

1/2 cup minced onions

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup ketchup

1 cup mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon anchovies

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons molasses

1/4 teaspoon ginger juice (peeled, grated, squeezed-out juice of ginger)

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

In oil or butter, slowly cook minced onion until soft, without letting onion get color. In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients until combined well. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

(Recipe from chef Erik Blauberg of New York City's "21" Club)

(Source: Hellmann's)

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