Corn oil versus olive oil
French people love corn oil, that horrible, neutral, yellowish oil that always comes in big, greasy, yellow, homeless-looking containers. Not because it’s corn, but because it has no taste. When they’re not using corn oil, they’re using vegetable oil. It’s oil for the sake of oil, and it’s an idea I just can’t get into. For cooking a steak or frying, it is, of course, perfectly fine. But every salad dressing we’ve learned in class is loaded with the stuff, and all I keep thinking is, wouldn’t this be better with olive oil? My palate must not be refined enough to appreciate these classic dressings. I want to see and taste the oil I’m eating.
We made mayonnaise tonight for the second time. The first time, I used the corn oil called for in the recipe, and while the end result was much more appealing than Hellman’s, which I can’t stomach, it was still redolent of that horrible oil. Tonight, on salad night, I furtively used extra virgin olive oil in every dressing we made, including the mayonnaise, and I felt at home again. (Naturally, when the teacher tasted it, his face contorted, and he said, “Ach! I can taste that olive oil!”)
Here it is on a bit of macédoine de légumes. I know my macédoine is way too big. I forgot how small it’s supposed to be (the size of a pea), and my partner and I were kind of copying each other’s mistake without realizing it. But oh well, it’s just a vegetable salad bathed in delicious olive oil mayonnaise.
To make my mayonnaise, you’ll need a whisk and a bowl. You’ll also need one egg, about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (or to taste), vinegar to taste (champagne vinegar is nice here), a 1/2 cup or more extra virgin olive oil, and a lemon half. Everything must be at room temperature—if you try to make it with anything that’s cold, it won’t work. Seriously, it will be garbage.
Separate the egg, and put the yolk in a big bowl. Whisk in the mustard, and then whisk in about a tablespoon of vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper, whisking all the while. The oil comes next, and if you try to do this too fast, you’ll have to start over. Pour it in as slowly as you can, at just a drizzle, whisking aggressively as you do this. It’s helpful if someone else pours while you whisk so that you can hold the bowl steady. Once you have a nice emulsion (it should become rather thick), squeeze in lemon juice to taste. If it needs a bit more vinegar, or salt, or oil, add them. Everything here is to taste except the egg yolk, and everyone’s mayonnaise tasted different tonight. We liked it with plenty of lemon juice, which complements the olive oil nicely, and also plenty of salt.