Friday, May 14, 2010

Grocery Store Detour

           I rarely have weekend nights home alone. My husband and I have a long-standing rivalry in Texas Hold-Em, and Friday and Saturday nights are spent either out with friends or see-sawing back and forth for the Championship. This Friday night (tonight) was a rare night alone. I craved ice cream, so I went to the store. I am probably one of the few people who venture to the store at 8:30 pm for some sweet treats only to return with a prickly vegetable and some grand notions of homemade mayonnaise.
I have never been a mayo person. I live for mustard: Dijon, ballpark, Creole, spicy brown, whatever. I am a mustard devotee. I recently read one of Molly Wizenberg’s articles in an old Bon Appétit on homemade mayonnaise. It stuck in my head, apparently enough to weasel itself into my ice cream dreams. Best of all, mayo only requires staples: egg yolk, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and Dijon (yay!). Substitute olive oil and add garlic, and it’s an aioli. Who would have thought?
If I was going to put forth the effort to make mayonnaise, I was going to go all out. When I perused the produce and came across fresh artichokes, I was hell-bent on being French tonight. There was one little setback. I wasn’t prepared for the absolute nuisance of trimming an artichoke. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not actually difficult, just irritatingly messy. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. To the artichoke, “pull off the tough outer leaves.” Given the twelve or so layers, what constitutes outer was a head-scratcher for me. I mean, how many of the layers are tough? They all looked pretty fibrous to me. Then, cut an inch off the top. Then cut the tip of each leaf off with a pair of scissors. Then the surgery begins. The inside of an artichoke is dark, purple, and prickly, my tender fingers then discovered. Pull out the purple leaves inside, and with a sharp spoon-like instrument (a grapefruit spoon would be ideal) carve out the fuzzy, prickly, “choke.” This was the irritatingly messy part. It’s like blowing a dandelion blossom (or two) all over your kitchen counter. Once the choke is out, you’re ready to roll.

Coat all the cut surfaces with lemon juice to prevent browning. Boil the artichokes in the water for about 30 minutes. Test for readiness by tugging on a leaf; if it comes out easily, they’re ready to eat. Drain and place in a bowl of lemon-juiced water while you make the mayo.

Homemade Mayonnaise                                                                                                                   Makes 1 cup
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 large egg yolk
The juice from one lemon, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
A dollop of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
3/4 cup canola oil, divided

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow, about 30 seconds. Using 1/4 teaspoon measure and whisking constantly, add 1/4 cup oil to yolk mixture. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup oil in very slow thin stream, whisking constantly, until mayonnaise is thick. Cover and chill.

I put on a Sinatra record and got to work. Pull leaf off, dip, scrape the bottom part between teeth. I love artichokes already, so I mistakenly thought I wasn’t in for some kind of epiphany. The mayonnaise was kind of delicious. Actually, it was sublime. Silky, smooth, tangy, not in the same genus, species, or even kingdom as the jarred glop. I may have put a bit too much Dijon in it but I loved the flavor. I think I may have to hide the ingredients because I’m afraid I’ll eat it on everything. The Belgians have it right: French fries with mayo? Oh yeah.