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Magic Mayo

Mayonnaise is a magic sauce. There really is no other way to describe it, because it’s an alchemical mystery in so many ways. How is it that one egg yolk and some vinegar can suspend up to several gallons of oil (this has been proven in laboratory tests – I’ve never tried that much oil).  Even watching the gradual suspension (also called an emulsion) of 1 cup of oil in a mixture of vinegar, egg yolk, and mustard, is mesmerizing.

Too Much Mayo Spoils the Fight

The history of mayonnaise evokes much polemic, because so many people have taken credit for it.  One story I like has the name originating with the region of the Mayenne.  There was a heady battle planned there in 1589, between Henry the IV and Charles de Lorraine, who was also the Duke of Mayenne.  It is said that the Duke ate so much of this egg and oil sauce the night before the battle that he was unable to fight, so the sauce was named for his region, which fell into the hands of his enemy.

The Trick to Great Mayonnaise

Whether or not this is the origin of the sauce doesn’t really matter to all of us who flavor it with herbs and citrus zest, put it on sandwiches, carefully fold it into egg yolks, or otherwise use it as a base for so many different things. The trick to making it is using neutral oil to begin with, then finishing with the oil of your choice (mine is olive oil), and even more importantly, adding the oil in the finest of streams so the other ingredients have time to greet and emulsify it. 

Staple in the French Kitchen

It is a staple in the French kitchen and while it is easily purchased at any supermarket, every home cook I know makes her own and so do I.  Why wouldn’t you, when you see how fast it goes together, and how delicate it tastes compared with the commercial variety.

I suggest that the next time you need mayonnaise YOU make YOUR OWN.  Just casually mention you have done so and, I guarantee, you will be crowned queen for the day, or perhaps for all your life!


This is a basic recipe; you can add more or less oil, depending on the thickness you like for your mayonnaise.
Cuisine: French
Keyword: egg yolk, mustard, neutral oil
Servings: 1 cup;250ml


  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¾ cup; 180ml 190ml grape seed or other neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons fine quality extra-virgin olive oil


  • Place a wet towel under a medium-sized, non-reactive bowl to keep it from sliding around. Then, place the salt, the mustard, and the vinegar in the bowl and whisk them together. Whisk in the egg yolks, then VERY SLOWLY, in a fine stream, whisk in the oils. The mixture will thicken as you whisk. You may stop adding oil when it gets to the thickness you desire.

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