I wasn't at all shocked by Hellman's runaway win in our Great Mayo Debate survey earlier this week. But I was surprised by how many people voted for 'Yuck!'. I know mayo can be polarizing, but I didn't realize that so many people find it revolting. I wondered if it had to do with the raw egg, which then reminded me of an egg-free mayo recipe I'd recently seen on the web. So off I went to investigate…
The recipe came from the website Food52, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs' wonderful web project/recipe contest. Ms. Hesser had tasted this sauce in Spain several years ago, but recently just discovered the recipe in David Leite's The New Portuguese Table and decided to give it a try. She was quite happy with the results, describing the sauce as being 'like a glossy Italian meringue that tasted like olive-oil-whipped cream.'
Mayonnaise is basically an oil-in-water emulsion that is stabilized by egg yolks, which contain lecithin (a natural emulsifier.) In this recipe, the egg is omitted and replaced by whole milk. I don't know the science here, but perhaps the lecithin in milk acts in a similar way to the lecithin in the egg yolk.
The recipe is simple but requires a blender (see note below.) A mixture of whole milk, fresh garlic, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper is whirled for a few seconds until it becomes frothy. Then the oil, in this case vegetable oil or a mix of veg and olive oil, is slowly dribbled in, just like regular mayonnaise, until the mixture become silky and thick.
The resulting sauce is indeed amazing. The texture is smooth and billowy, a light, cloud-like poof that mounded on my spoon. It's not as thick and sticky as mayo, but it does work in binding ingredients together for tuna or chicken salad, although I would be cautious about adding anything too wet or water producing.
The taste will be very dependent on the kind of oil you use and the quality of your garlic. You may want to steer away from the hot, bitterish olive oils in favor of the mellower, grassy ones. And be sure your garlic is fresh. I used a very small clove and to my palate, it was almost too much.
Note: I strongly advise using a blender for this recipe. I used my trusty immersion blender and suspect that I wouldn't have succeeded without it.
The Recipe: Maionese de Leite from Food52
The Result: Highly Recommended!
(Images: Dana Velden)