Thursday, 30 June 2011

Crayfish with Tarragon Mayonnaise

A few weeks ago the Ewing went to Oxford to visit the chiropractors and managed to return with with two crabs, a rhubarb and hazelnut cake, some pig's head terrine, asparagus and a big bag of signal crayfish. Just the usual really.  After enjoying the asparagus roasted, draping the charred spears with curls of Italian sheep's cheese, my thoughts turned to crustaceans.

After I had got over the disconcerting feeling of being stared at by a dozen beady eyes every time I opened the fridge door I decided the best way to eat these American invaders was simply with lemon, a bottle of white and some mayo.

Deciding to do it properly I set about making my own mayonnaise.  Despite pretty much drinking the stuff on a daily basis my only previous attempt at making it myself stayed resolutely liquid.  Alarm bells should have started to ring when the Ewing came into the kitchen and announced her previous efforts had been 'completely inedible', but, refusing to believe anything containing so much oil could taste that terrible, I persevered anyway.

Half and hour, and all the fresh eggs in the kitchen, later my hairdresser turned up at the house only to find the food processor, hand blender, several whisks and bowls and most the kitchen floor covered in trails of greasy gunge.  Despite trying every trick in book the texture was still far too liquid, although it was at least, sort of, edible.  Luckily stirring a few dollops of premade mayo saved the day, and my sanity.  The addition of plenty of chopped tarragon gave it a lovely aniseed flavour that worked beautifully with the sweet crayfish meat.

Not wanted to be defeated I bought some more eggs and tried the mayo again (different recipe, this time based on one from the Guardian) the next day. While it certainly worked better I won't be giving up on the blue and yellow jar in my fridge any time soon.

Crayfish with Tarragon Mayonnaise

Crayfish (or substitute langoustines, lobster, prawns or crab)
Mayonnaise (premade or see recipe below)
A small bunch of tarragon leaves, chopped (you could also use dill)
Lemon wedges

Serve crayfish with the mayo, crusty bread and plenty of napkins.


2 egg yolks
Generous pinch of salt
250ml groundnut or sunflower oil
25ml extra virgin olive, walnut or rapeseed oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice

Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before starting
Take a large mixing bowl, and add the egg yolks. Beat well with a whisk for a couple of minutes.
Add the salt and beat well for 30 seconds until the yolk is thick and sticky. Add the acid and mustard.
Begin to pour in the neutral oil drop by drop beating all the while – don't be tempted to rush this if the mixture does not emulsify now it certainly won't later.
As the mixture thickens, you can start to add the oil in a thin stream.
Once your mayonnaise is near the consistency you want it (and you may not need to use all the oil), whisk in the olive oil.
Once it is all incorporated, beat the mayonnaise for another 30 seconds until thick and glossy.
If you would prefer a thinner mixture, (ha!) add a little water.

If the mixture remains uncompromisingly thin then take a clean bowl, add an egg yolk, and whisk with a pinch more salt. Pour the original mixture back in, bit by bit, while constantly whisking.  It (should) then emulsify.

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