Today, we’ll apply that approach to one of our favorite condiments — mayonnaise — to get, seriously, literally bajillions of sauce possibilities.
WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
You know your obnoxious friends who are always like, “Oooh, try my homemade gnocchi” and “You know, Madge, you really should be making your own ketchup”? If they could just shut their pie holes, even for a minute, you could collect your thoughts enough to concoct a little special sauce of your very own. That’d show ‘em.
THE STEPS YOU TAKE
1. Spoon some mayo into a bowl.
2. Stir in something tasty.
Well, that was easy.
Anyone want to see some pictures of my kids?
OK, OK. Never mind. Sheesh.
To start, there are two main concepts here: First, while Americans are blessed with three major condiments — ketchup (catsup?), mustard and mayonnaise — in my view, for the task at hand, there’s really only one option. Here’s why:
The problem with ketchup is that it’s a relatively strong flavor on its own, which means it doesn’t really do subtlety. Sure, it’s great as a base for barbecue sauce, but try doctoring it another way, and anything else you add is going to be overpowered by its sheer — ketchupiness.
What about mustard, then?
Well, to start with, there are already a bajillion (literally!!!) varieties of mustard: honey mustard, Jack Daniels mustard, creole mustard, Champagne mustard, cigarette ash mustard, Sriracha mustard, horseradish mustard, bloody mary mustard, Scotch tape mustard, grape jelly mustard — OK, two of those I made up, but, you get the picture.
There’s so much crazy mustard out there that there’s even a museum devoted to it, and I’ve been there. It’s the Graceland of condiments: the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wis., which features more than 5,600 (!!!) kinds of mustard. Go ahead: Make the pilgrimage. You know you want to.
Anyway, I’d say mustard’s out too.
Fortunately, there’s mayonnaise. Mayo’s the perfect canvas upon which to inscribe the numberless shades of our flavor palette. It’s rich and creamy and mildly flavored, and the pearly white hue of the bottled product makes it perfect for creating beautifully colored sauces that look as great as they taste.
Mayo it is, then.
Our second big concept is the fact that grocery shelves are groaning under all manner of bottled and jarred tasty things, such as (in alphabetical order): chutneys, condiments, curries, dressings, pastes, pickles, preserves, salsas, sauces, spice mixes — any one of which might be the perfect addition to our trusty sidekick.
Now, you could just scroll back up — unless, of course, you’re reading this on a flesh-and-blood newspaper — and hark back to my original suggestion: Simply stir something tasty into your mayo — wasabi, minced shallot, fresh herbs — and see what happens.
A more thoughtful plan, however, might be first to consider the flavor profile of the food that your remodeled mayo will accompany. By that, I mean, where in the wide, wide world of sports are its main flavors originating? Mexico? Thailand? The Mediterranean? Your local farmers market?
Next, consider complementary flavors. Those can be either something you prepare easily at home (a spice mix, fresh pesto, etc.). Or, make it easy on yourself, and stir in a tablespoon or three of the contents of one of those aforementioned bottles or jars whose flavor profile matches what you’re serving.
Here are some examples to get you thinking. I’ve started by listing a flavor profile for an entree, appetizer or sandwich whose main ingredient is either protein (beef, chicken, seafood, pork, etc.) or grilled or roasted vegetables. Next, I have some suggestions for things to stir into your mayo to match those flavor profiles:
Indian spiced or tandoori flavors: Stir in mango or cilantro chutney or jarred curries or Indian pickle.
Asian-style soy-glazed protein or veg: Stir in Korean gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) or minced kimchi or miso or Sriracha and lime juice, or just pour in some bottled teriyaki, hoisin or oyster sauce or any commercial Asian marinade, like Trader Joe's Soyaki Sauce.
Mexican, Tex-Mex or Latin American: Stir in chili sauce or salsa or minced chipotles or chimichurri or packaged salsa verde or pico de gallo.
Or, think more specifically about an exact menu item:
Pan-seared salmon: With tapenade mayo (serve with orzo salad and green beans Provencal).
Grilled steak burger: With steak sauce mayo, on a pretzel bun with sliced Vidalia onion and heirloom tomato (serve with potato salad and/or three-bean salad).
Roast chicken: With garlic mayonnaise — some might call this aioli — (with mashed potatoes and pan gravy and sauteed summer squash).
Grilled veggie sandwich: With ssamjang mayonnaise on ciabatta (with a side of cucumber salad).
Breaded pork scaloppini sandwich: With mild giardiniera and harissa (Moroccan spice paste) mayo.