April 11, 2006

Mastering the Art
of French Cooking


Sauce Rémoulade

Sauce Aïoli  

      Calling all Julia Child fans!

You might know how to make a hearty coq au vin, tasty omelettes, or a delicious cherry flan, but if you truly want to cook like Julia Child, it's time to add foolproof sauces to your cooking repertoire. In My Life in France, the beloved chef's memoir which has just been released, Julia recounts her experience as a young cook who fell in love with French food and went on to write the landmark Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia shows us that Mastering would not have become the classic text it is today without the testing she subjected every recipe to. Along with her co-authors, and especially her husband Paul, she taste-tested her way to perfection.

"By the end of my research, I believe, I had written more on the subject of mayonnaise than anyone in history. I had made so much mayonnaise that Paul and I could hardly bear to eat it anymore," Julia writes. "And I took to dumping my test batches down the toilet."

Of course, this extensive research paid off. Here is Julia's master recipe for mayonnaise, a wonderful tool to keep in your culinary arsenal; it is the basis for numerous other sauces including the wonderful spring flavors of rémoulade and aïoli, both included below.


Best wishes,

Ashley Gillespie


"Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion."— Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

Knopf Hardcover

Order your copy online


3 egg yolks

3-5 Tb wine vinegar or lemon juice

1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups of olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of each

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp dry or prepared mustard

Makes 2 to 2 3/4 cups mayonnaise


Mayonnaise like hollandaise is a process of forcing egg yolks to absorb a fatty substance, oil in this case, and to hold it in thick and creamy suspension. But as the egg yolks do not have to be warmed, the sauce is that much simpler to make than hollandaise. You can make it by machine in a blender, although the processor produces a larger and better sauce. Either way it is almost automatic, and takes no skill whatsoever. Mayonnaise done by hand or with an electric beater requires familiarity with egg yolks. And again, as with hollandaise, you should be able to make it by hand as part of your general mastery of the egg yolk. It is certainly far from difficult once you understand the process, and after you have done it a few times, you should easily and confidently be able to whip together a quart of sauce in less than 10 minutes.

POINTS TO REMEMBER when making mayonnaise by hand

Mayonnaise is easiest to make when all ingredients are at normal room temperature. Warm the mixing bowl in hot water to take the chill off the egg yolks. Heat the oil to tepid if it is cold.

Egg Yolks
Always beat the egg yolks for a minute or two before adding anything to them. As soon as they are thick and sticky, they are ready to absorb the oil.

Adding the Oil
The oil must be added very slowly at first, in droplets, until the emulsion process begins and the sauce thickens into a heavy cream. After this, the oil may be incorporated more rapidly.

The maximum amount of oil one U.S. Large egg yolk will absorb is 6 ounces or 3/4 cup. When this maximum is exceeded, the binding properties of the egg yolks break down, and the sauce thins out or curdles. If you have never made mayonnaise before, it is safest not to exceed 1/2 cup of oil per egg yolk.

NOTE: The following directions are for a hand-beaten sauce. Exactly the same system is followed for an electric beater. Use the large bowl, and the moderately fast speed for whipping cream. Continually push the sauce into the beater blades with a rubber scraper.

Warm a round-bottomed, 2 1/2-to 3-quart glazed pottery, glass, or stainless steel mixing bowl in hot water. Dry it and set it in a heavy casserole or saucepan to keep it from slipping. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Add 1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice, plus the salt and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil. If it is cold, heat it to tepid; and if you are a novice, use the minimum amount. While it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, it makes no difference as long as you beat constantly. Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon, or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil. After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis is over. The beating arm may rest a moment. Then beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.

When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of wine vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.

Beat 2 tablespoons boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste with wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and mustard.

If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it closely so a skin will not form on its surface.

You will never have trouble with freshly made mayonnaise if you have beaten the egg yolks thoroughly in a warmed bowl before adding the oil, if the oil has been added in droplets until the sauce has commenced to thicken, and if you have not exceeded the maximum proportions of 3/4 cup of oil per egg yolk. A mayonnaise has turned when it refuses to thicken, or, in a finished mayonnaise, when the oil releases itself from suspension and the sauce curdles. In either case, the remedy is simple.

Warm a mixing bowl in hot water. Dry it. Add 1 teaspoon of prepared mustard and 1 teaspoon of sauce. Beat with a wire whip for several seconds unil they cream and thicken together. Beat in the rest of the sauce by teaspoons, thickening each addition before adding the next. This always works. Just be sure you add the turned sauce a little bit at a time, particularly at first.

After several days under refrigeration, mayonnaise has a tendency to thin out, especially if it is stirred before it comes to room temperature. If it does turn, bring it back using the preceding system.


2 cups mayonnaise (recipe above)

3 to 4 Tb minced sour pickles

3 to 4 Tb minced capers

2 to 4 Tb minced fresh green herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon

1/2 tsp anchovy paste

Sauce Rémoulade (Mayonnaise with Anchovies, Pickles, Capers, and Herbs)

With the addition of half a teaspoon or so of anchovy paste, sauce rémoulad has the same flavorings as sauce tartare, but it is a regular mayonnaise rather than one made with hard yolks.

Twist the minced pickles and capers into a ball in the corner of a towel to extract their juice. Beat them gradually into the sauce. Then beat in the herbs and anchovy paste. Correct seasoning.


1 slice (3/8 inch thick) of stale, white, homemade-type bread

3 Tb milk or wine vinegar

A heavy bowl or mortar

A wooden pestle

4 to cloves mashed garlic

1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups good olive oil

A wire whip

3 to 4 Tb boiling water or fish stock

2 to 3 Tb lemon juice

Makes about 2 cups

Sauce Aïoli (Provençal Garlic Mayonnaise)

For: boiled fish, especially cod, bourride (Provençal fish soup), snails, boiled potatoes, green beans, and hard-boiled eggs.

This rich, thick mayonnaise with its fine garlic flavor must be made in a fairly traditional way if it is to have its correct taste and consistency. The garlic should be pounded in a mortar until it is mashed into a very smooth paste. You cannot make it successfully in an electric blender because for some unfortunate reason the garlic acquires a raw and bitter taste, and the egg white required for blender-made sauce does not produce the fine, heavy texture that is characteristic of a proper Mediterranean aïoli.

Remove the crusts and break the bread into a small bowl. Stir in the milk or vinegar and let the bread soak for 5 to 10 minutes into a soft pulp. Twist the bread into a ball in the corner of a towel to extract the liquid.

Place the bread and garlic in bowl and pound with the pestle for at least 5 minutes to mash the garlic and bread into a very, very smooth paste.

Pound in the egg yolk and salt until the mixture is thick and sticky.

Then, drop by drop, pound and blend in the olive oil. When the sauce has thickened into a heavy cream, you may switch from a pestle to a wire whip and add the oil a little bit faster. Thin out the sauce as necessary with drops of water or stock, and lemon juice. Sauce should remain quite heavy, so it hold its shape in a spoon. Correct seasoning.

NOTE: If the sauce turns or curdles, you can reconstitute it by following the directions for turned mayonnaise.

FISH SOUP NOTE: If the aïoli is to be stirred into a fish soup, more egg yolks are used, usually one per person.

All photos from MY LIFE IN FRANCE reproduced in this newsletter are by Paul Child.

Excerpted from MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck Copyright 1961, 1983, 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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