Friday, October 16, 2009

Rouille (i.e. The Most Expensive Mayonnaise in the World)

I made the chicken bouillabaisse recipe out of the most recent Cook's Illustrated ($$$) last night... and while I may yet blog about that experience (and I may not, as it was a fairly mediocre cooking event: neither great enough to rave about nor aggravating enough to rant about)... I wanted to focus on making the rouille, since I've been on a bit of a homemade mayonnaise kick lately. Definitely one of my weirder obsessions since I don't even really like mayonnaise... but I've enjoyed making them (I think) because it just feels like something real chefs do... you know, just whip up some rouille on a whim to put on... toast... or whatever you put a spicy saffron mayo on... bouillabaisse obviously, but I'm not a Frenchman so you can't really expect me to be an expert on these things. I'm sure it would make for a killer BLT. But anyway, being able to make a mayonnaise from scratch seems like something I should be able to do... and the fancier and French-ier that mayo is, the better.

Enter rouille... which according to Wikipedia "consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers" with an egg yolk as the emulsifier. Saffron is the spice makes rouille a somewhat pricey endeavor, but also what imparts much of its distinctive flavor.

Now, you almost got yourself a sobbing "I can't make mayonnaise!!" post here, because I forgot to add the lemon juice at first... and I was dribbling in the last 1/2 cup of oil, feeling like the emulsion wasn't quite happy incorporating, when Anna asked me what I was making and what was in it... jogging my memory, and causing me to realize I had forgotten the acid. Whew! I think I was fairly close to having a broken rouille... but at the time I was mainly worried that I had screwed up something critical by not adding the acid at the right time. Luckily, I'm reading Michael Ruhlman's Ratio (impressions forthcoming - so far, thumbs up), which has a handy chapter on fat based sauces with a section on mayonnaise in particular... and Ruhlman makes clear that acid isn't a key part of the emulsion itself... what is key is the proportion of liquid to oil, which the lemon juice is certainly a part of.

But it turned out fine... or at least I think it did... it didn't break at any rate... so no sobbing for you. Not to brag, but that makes me 2 for 2 in the homemade mayonnaise department. Think that makes me ready to open up my own restaurant? No? Meh.

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 small cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  1. Microwave water and saffron in medium microwave-safe bowl on high power until water is steaming, 10 to 20 seconds. Allow to sit 5 minutes.
  2. Stir bread pieces and lemon juice into saffron-infused water; soak 5 minutes.
  3. Using whisk, mash soaked bread mixture until uniform paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in mustard, egg yolk, cayenne, and garlic until smooth, about 15 seconds.
  4. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil in steady stream until smooth mayonnaise-like consistency is reached, scraping down bowl as necessary.
  5. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil in steady stream until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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