bluefish pâté is made with fake mayo (that's the stuff on the spoon between two toasts). If you are not a new reader to this blog, you'll probably guess what my view is on fake food. I don't do low-fat, low-cholesterol, or low-anything. But desperate times call for desperate measures. One of my kids is allergic to eggs (and a bunch of other things too). This made me think that mayo is out of the question for him until I read Kenji Alt's post on vegan mayo. The important thing to realize is that mayo is mostly oil. The main purpose of the egg is to emulsify it with the acidic ingredient (lemon juice or vinegar). Kenji replaces the egg with silken tofu and uses an immersion blender to create an emulsion (it's a mechanical rather than chemical way to make water and oil hold together). An addition of dijon mustard and garlic don't hurt either -- those are both good emulsifiers and they add great flavor.
A few weeks later, I saw the same idea in Cook's illustrated*. They use milk instead of mayo, but other than that the recipe is very similar to Kenji's. I liked the fact that I didn't need to buy tofu. No matter how many times I've tried it, I still don't like it. Buying a whole block of it for the tiny bit I needed for mayo seemed wasteful. The milk is something I always have, and I was ready to give the fake mayo a try. There was just one little problem -- lemon allergy. My first instinct was to add vinegar instead of lemon juice. But then I thought of yogurt. It has the same emulsifying properties as milk, and it's tangy all on it's own. I threw everything in the blender, buzzed it together and tasted the results. Not bad, but overly garlicky and a bit thin. I poured the fake mayo into a jar and put it in the fridge for eventual use. When I tasted it a few days later, it was much better. The aggressive garlickiness has mellowed out and the mixture thickened to the consistency or real mayo. I guess that's not surprising since oil thickens and sometimes even solidifies in the fridge. When tasted on it's own, it tastes almost like mayo. When tasted in a mix (tuna salad, chicken salad, etc), it's indistinguishable.
Now, if only I could learn to make fake nuts...
June 25, 2012 update: I figured if Stonyfield Farm yogurt made such good mayo, thick Fage yogurt would be even better. Well, I was wrong. I tried using 2% Fage and the emulsion broke. I have a feeling it had more to do with the thickness of yogurt than with the fact that it was 2%. The texture of yogurt and oil were so different that they just wouldn't hold together. If anyone has a good explanation for this, let me know. I have also tried the original recipe using milk instead of yogurt and it worked well.
1/3 cup whole milk plain yogurt (NOT thick strained one)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, grated on a microplane zester (minced is fine too)
1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 1/8 tsp fine grain sea salt)
1/8 tsp sugar
3/4 cup neutral tasting oil (I used grape seed oil, but vegetable or canola work well too)
Whisk together yogurt, mustard, garlic, salt, and sugar in the tall cup that came with your immersion blender (a 2-cup glass pyrex mesuring cup is a good alternative). Add the oil. Insert the immersion blender all the way to the bottom. Blend on medium speed keeping the blender at the bottom of the cup for 20 seconds. Very, very slowly pull up the blender (while keeping it on) until all the contents are thick and emulsified. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. For best results, let sit in the fridge for 2 days before using.
*Cook's Illustrated got the idea from David Leite.