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Mad for Mayo

By Sandy Hu

I was making tartar sauce the other day for a Special Fork Video Friday shoot on catfish when, rummaging through the fridge, the parsley eluded me. So I chopped up some cilantro instead.

While mixing the cilantro into mayonnaise, I realized that capers, while adding distinction to a good tartar sauce, would clash with the assertive cilantro. So I eliminated the capers and added some sriracha sauce, minced onion and finely diced sweet pickles. I liked the outcome – a Southeast Asian flavor profile that added zest to the fish.

Mayonnaise from the jar is infinitely versatile and plays well with many flavors. I started to think about all the ways I use mayonnaise, in a pinch. Garlic is usually a willing partner in these mayo concoctions. When mixing garlic into mayonnaise, I use a garlic press because it’s quicker and easier than mincing, and the crushed particles blend better.

Try these simple ideas:

Mock Aioli: Mix pressed garlic with mayonnaise, to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. This makes a delicious spread for hearty dinner sandwiches such as sliced grilled chicken, lettuce and tomato on toasted rustic bread.

Last-Minute Dip: If you run out of dip during a party, save the day by quickly mixing mayonnaise with pressed garlic, a squeeze of anchovy paste, a splash of lemon juice and a handful of minced herbs, such as parsley or dill. Do not skip the anchovy paste – it will add a rich, umami quality to your dip, but won’t overwhelm as anchovies tend to do when served whole in pizza.

Sauce for Cooked Veggies: Mayonnaise mixed with soy sauce is extremely tasty, though not too pretty. Creamy and salty, it’s wonderful with baked beets, steamed beet greens or a plateful of steamed veggies – baby carrots, fingerlings and broccoli florets – the kind of dinner I like to make for myself when I’m home alone. Go easy on the soy sauce, dribbling a little into the mayo and tasting until you reach a pleasing flavor (about four parts mayo to one of soy sauce).

To Coat Fish for Breading: Brush fish with mayonnaise, dredge in dry bread crumbs or panko and bake. It helps the crumbs to adhere and keeps fish moist.

“Japanese” Salad Dressing: This is not authentic; it’s like the kind of dressing you get at inexpensive Japanese restaurants, served over the iceberg lettuce and shredded carrot salad. You’ll have to play with the proportions, because the flavor of miso will vary by brand and type: Here’s an approximation: whisk together ½ cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons miso and ¼ teaspoon Asian sesame oil. Makes about ¾ cup, enough for about 6 servings.

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