Have a Sauce Up Your Sleeve

Master the recipes for some basic sauces and you’ll be able to instantly glamorize all kinds of simple summer foods. As I pointed out in a recent post (“Versatile Vinaigrette,” May 3), once you learn the basic recipe for vinaigrette, you can vary it in numerous ways. The same is true for mayonnaise.

The main purpose of Melissa Clark’s recent New York Times column, “Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg and a Drop of Magic,” (May 23, 2012) was to pass along a tip for repairing a broken homemade mayonnaise by whisking in a few drops of water. But she also extolled the many mayonnaise variations possible by adding flavorings (among them, garlic, Sriracha, olives or capers, and anchovies), and the many uses of mayonnaise that can expand a cook’s repertoire of meals (including sugar snap peas with walnut mayo, chicken brushed with rosemary black-pepper mayo and grilled, and pasta dressed with bacon mayo and served with Parmesan curls and lemon wedges).

With just a little practice, homemade mayonnaise is easy to make. It’s just a mixture of an egg yolk, Dijon mustard, a little lemon juice or other acid, salt and pepper, and oil. The exact proportions vary slightly depending on the chef, but you can find a recipe in any general cookbook. Both How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl, include mayonnaise recipes.

Just make sure that your ingredients are at room temperature and be patient, especially when whisking in the oil. It should be added one drop at a time until the mixture begins to emulsify.

There’s no question that homemade mayonnaise is heavenly. But for a speedier and still satisfactory result, you can start with best-quality jarred mayonnaise.

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