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Make the most of mayonnaise

| Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2003

It's not hard to understand why mayonnaise has a happy history and a secure place among cooks' favorite allies in presenting dishes.

Store-bought or homemade, classic or spiced-up, the creamy emulsion makes an easy dip or an effortlessly rich sauce, and smoothly complements countless other ingredients.

Mayonnaise's name is thought to be derived from the French adjective mahonnaise , meaning from Mahon, capital of the Mediterranean island of Minorca.

The French, led by the Duke of Richelieu, won a battle against the English there in 1756. The sauce, made with olive oil instead of the more conventional cream, may have been part of a victory feast, so the story goes -- and was named for Mahon.

Mayonnaise is found in most home kitchens. Its many forms include flavored variations, as well as lowfat versions for those who love the taste but shun the calories.

Top chefs use it in classic as well as creative dishes, ranging from steak sauces to creamy tea sandwiches. A few of their recipes follow, courtesy of Hellman's.

Tarragon Mayonnaise Dip

Chef and co-owner Waldy Malouf of Beacon restaurant in New York City is a mayo fan. "Mayonnaise-based sauces add bold flavor to bland foods. They're great for parties, because they let each guest decide how much sauce to put on his or her food," he says.

His tarragon mayonnaise dip is a favorite with diners because it is a good complement for both vegetables and fried foods (chicken wings and oysters, for example). It can can be used with cold seafood and in sandwiches.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, more to taste
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Note: For a spicier version, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, hot pepper sauce or horseradish to taste, and 1 tablespoon brandy.

Chive Dipping Sauce

Executive chef David Walzog of Strip House, Livingston, N.J., says his chive dipping sauce is the most requested sauce on the menu by those in the know. He recommends it with crudites, or light, flaky fish, such as snapper or bass.

  • 2 cups fresh chives (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

Roughly chop the fresh chives and, using a blender, puree the chives and jalapeno together until smooth, using 2 tablespoons water to allow them to puree.

In a mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise and the sour cream; stir. Add the lemon peel and juice, salt and ground coriander; stir well. Add the chive-jalapeno mixture, combine and refrigerate, covered, for 2 or 3 hours before serving.

Makes 2 cups.

Old-Fashioned Steak Sauce

Chef Eric Blauberg of New York City's "21" Club is known for his old-fashioned steak and the special sauce that goes on top. To make ginger juice, peel and grate fresh ginger root, then squeeze out the juice.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovies
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • Salt, to taste

In the oil or butter, slowly cook the onion until soft, without letting it turn color. In a mixing bowl, whisk the onion with the remaining ingredients until combined well. Chill for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

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