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How to Make Mayonnaise (or Aioli) Without a Recipe

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Assistant Editor Kenzi Wilbur really likes mayonnaise. Here's how she makes it, without a recipe, and with just a few ingredients.  


So you want to make some mayonnaise. Maybe you're making slap fries, or fancy burgers, or better, you've just roasted a chicken and you're feeling a little decadent.  

The first step? Don't look at a recipe. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, and a few ingredients we're betting you have on hand already. 

This isn't the only method out there -- some people use immersion blenders and food processors and blenders -- but we do it by hand, because we're old school, and also because we're too lazy to take out our appliances. Our biceps look better than theirs do, anyway. 

How to Make Aioli Without a Recipe 

1. Put 1 egg yolk into a bowl. But before you start whisking like a mad person, a bit of science: most think (including food science greats like Ruhlman and McGee) that adding liquid at this stage is essential to properly emulsifying an aioli. If you're a traditionalist and you'd like a bit of extra security, add about 2 teaspoons of liquid (like lemon juice, water, or a combination of both) now. You can also choose to add your flavorings now, like a minced garlic clove to throw this thing into aioli territory, or a teaspoon of mustard. 

If you want to go rogue, take a page out of Suzanne Goin's book, and add nothing. As proof this will work, consider exhibits a) this Genius recipe, and b) the fact that when we asked her about it, she said she's been doing it this way for 20 years. Who knew this would be so adventurous? It's a choose-your-own ending aioli. 

Let's proceed. 

2. Measure out a cup of neutral oil like grapeseed, and begin whisking it in extremely slowly -- at first, just drop by drop. After about a 1/4 cup of painstakingly. Slow. Adding, the aioli should begin to emulsify. Once it does, you can start adding the oil in a thin stream, still whisking constantly. 

3. After you whisk in the rest of the oil, your arm will likely be tired. Take a break, and if you haven't added it already, figure out what you'd like to flavor your mayonnaise with. You have options: mash garlic into a paste with salt and stir that in, add some more lemon juice, go wild and fold Sriracha in to taste. At this point, it's your blank canvas. 

If you're not busy slathering it on things already, here are a few options. We'd recommend all, at once:  

Potato Salad
Roast Chicken
Deviled Eggs

Photos by James Ransom  

Tags: not recipes, aioli, sauce, how to, step by step, how-to & diy

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