Day 6: The Magic of Emulsion

“Who’s made mayonnaise before?” asks Chef.

A few hands go up.

“So most of you eat Hellmann’s? That’s not good, guys. Homemade is better.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love mayo. I love smearing big heaping spoonfuls of it on white bread, and topping it with a beefy tomato slice. But do I really love it enough to whip up a batch every time I have a hankering for a mayo-infested sandwich?

If you asked me yesterday, I’d say no. But today was my first day attempting this creamy mixture, and it was simply sublime. And I’m not talking about just the flavor upgrade. There’s something magical about making mayonnaise and watching it completely morph into another being. It’s basically two ingredients: egg yolks and oil. And if you do it right, when you whisk it, it’ll transform into this airy, custard-like mixture that tastes creamy enough to deceive you into thinking it has cream.

Station partner Tom whipping up a batch of mayo

Doing it for the first time, I felt like a kid as I watched this science experiment. “Come on babbyyy!!!” was the mantra going on in my head as my biceps burned from beating the heck out of my yolks. Chef Gregg, our assistant chef for the day, told me I didn’t have to whisk like a maniac to make mayo. Point taken.

When we all got our mayos to stand up (or stiffen), we graduated to sabayon—a warm emulsion of egg yolks and clarified butter, or butter that’s been heated to remove any impurities. Your classic hollandaise sauce is a sabayon. This is a little trickier because you have to continually whisk your egg yolks over a double-boiler. And when you go to cooking school there’s no such thing as an oven mitt, something I adore in my kitchen at home. My tiny hands love the comfort of an oversized, thick mitt when it ventures into an oven or near a stovetop. But in school, we’re left with kitchen towels to protect our hands. And as I beat these eggs over the peaking flames, my fingers are burning. Chef chuckles at my virgin fingers, and tells me to move my pot farther from the flame. I’m such a rookie.

Sweet sabayon poured over strawberries and bruleed.

I end the day feeling a little sick because I’ve eaten a lot of mayo. It’s completely my fault since I didn’t need to keep trying my hollandaise sauce, but it was so addicting that I couldn’t help if my spoon kept dipping into the batch. Something to work on, I guess.

Ron takes a torch to his sabayon

TIP OF THE DAY: If you’re whisking with one hand and pouring with the other, how do you keep the bowl steady? Make a circle with a wet kitchen towel and place the bowl on top of it. (See picture above.)

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