Serious Eats: Recipes

Eating for Two: Julia Child's Cooked Egg Mayonnaise

I am not accustomed to being wary of food. My working assumption is that when I eat something in a restaurant it may, by accident or design, contain gross things that I don’t want to know about, but that I will survive. I know exactly how clean my kitchen floor is, but I choose to heed the five-second rule instead of this knowledge. Raw eggs, rare meat, venerable leftovers that still smell pretty much okay—none of these things has ever given me pause until now.

Before, the worst thing that could happen was a bout of food poisoning. Now I worry about harming my growing baby and reluctantly reverse course when I automatically lift a chunk of raw cookie dough to my mouth. Although I’m all for not taking worrying to extremes, recently baby did not kick for more than a day, and it was scary. She’s active again now, thank goodness, but it was horrible to wonder if something I did had hurt her. Because I haven’t been perfect.

Sometimes I have had the bite of raw cookie dough, telling myself that my Greenmarket eggs are probably safe. I’ve eaten rare meat and I’ve eaten hamburgers, pretty well-done and not at McDonald’s, but still. When Andrew and I went to Pearl Oyster Bar for a treat, I planned to order the Caesar salad but thought to ask if the dressing contains raw eggs; since it does, I skipped it. But I didn’t ask if the mayonnaise in the lobster roll is made with raw eggs because I didn’t want to know; I wanted my lobster roll. As I reviewed these incidents, I began to feel like a five-martini mom and started groping again for the sane middle position between guilt and indulgence.

Step one: guilt-free mayonnaise. The Greenmarket gives us many reasons to make mayonnaise at home in spring and summer (asparagus, deviled eggs, potato salad, cold roast chicken, and BLTs, for starters), and I get a nervous thrill out of watching the emulsion “take” every single time. Reluctant to skip it this year but unwilling, after baby’s quiet day or two, to take a chance on even a beautiful farm-fresh raw egg, I decided to look into cooked-egg mayonnaises.

This version from Julia Child asks us to whisk a raw egg into a hot flour-water roux. The mixture is then cooked for 15 more seconds before being worked up in a food processor with all the other ingredients. According to Child, that 15 seconds on the cooktop is long enough to render the egg cooked. She recommends this as a safer mayonnaise for any hot weather or picnic-type situation (but does not explicitly say that it is safe for people with raw-egg concerns—pregnant women, children, and anyone with a compromised immune system).

How does it taste? I have to admit that it seemed not quite as pleasingly decadent as regular mayonnaise. I could really taste the hard-boiled egg yolks, and the texture was somewhat grainy. Since I prefer the whisk, the food processor method was not entirely gratifying. But the product was still quite good with plain asparagus and in deviled eggs, and on a sandwich I imagine it would work very well indeed.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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