08 September 2009

a very domestic weekend

Labor Day weekend. The classic American holiday. The last chance to relax before school starts and work gets busy again. 

Though Mark and I usually take every chance we can get to leave LA and get into the outdoors, we had a little survival epic misadventure in July that made me not so excited about camping on this particular holiday. And it’s not ski season yet (though I desperately want it to be). So we had our first staycation in a good, long while. Other than a trip down to Manhattan Beach to watch Mark play in a beach volleyball tournament on Saturday and an evening at Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Sunday (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in honor of John Hughes), we stayed home all weekend (plus Monday) and hunkered down to some domestic delights. 

On the cooking front, I boiled lots and lots of corn in celebration of the remaining days of summer, and we made our first attempt at homemade mayonnaise (a classic French sauce, of course!). In decorating, we finally attacked the office/guest room and developed our game plan for the many functions and things that need to be stored in that room. In gardening, I trimmed back all of the tomato plants to help them ripen the last few tomatoes of the year, and thinned out the first seedlings of the fall veggies. And in the newest pursuit – sewing – I made my first, actual wearable garment. Somehow we also found time to spin and do my first training run for the half marathon, teach and then take a yoga class, and sleep for 12 hours Sunday night (certainly the first time the latter has happened since our honeymoon). Whew! This is the kind of time I live for… super productive, but also really relaxing. Now I am ready for the post-Labor Day work frenzy.

I’ll chronicle the adventures in decorating, gardening and sewing over the course of the week, but cooking is up today.

My near-obsession since mid-July has been boiled corn on the cob. In the last two weeks, I am sure that I have made it at least 10 different days. Mark tired of it a few weeks ago, but I am still going strong. Naturally, I’m a bit particular about it. The corn has to be really fresh, the kernels bursting with juice when raw. If the store has already husked the ears, that’s a no go (makes them dry out too quickly). And I try to cook them the day we buy them, or the next day at most, so they don’t turn too starchy. And for cooking, they go in boiling water for 3 to 3 ½ minutes, and not a second more. The result when the corn is good… sheer delight. Sadly, the corn season is rapidly dwindling, and the late season crop of white corn is just not as satisfying as the yellow corn from late July and early August. So I’m interspersing other veggies into the mix.

Last night, we had three bunches of asparagus between the two of us, and that was a nice treat. But on Saturday, I found really gorgeous globe artichokes at Trader Joe’s, and used that as an inspiration for a culinary first in our home: making homemade mayonnaise (or, in this case, the garlicky aioli version). A few weeks ago, I found great artichokes at the Hollywood farmer’s market, and was inspired by them to make my first go at hollandaise sauce. I followed the original Julia Child recipe exactly and got (if I do say so myself) a perfect result. That may have made me a little overconfident in the attempt at mayonnaise.

If overconfidence was my first mistake, doing a Google search for “aioli” and going by the first recipe I saw was my second. The instructions: beat one egg yolk with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper until the yolk turns a pale yellow, then slowly dribble in one cup of olive oil. I decided to use the food processor, which I believe was a good decision. Everything was going well… light yellow egg yolks, sauce thickening nicely as I VERY slowly poured in the oil (roughly four minutes for the first half a cup). All the recipes I had read in the past said you could speed up the oil pouring a little after the sauce started to come together, so I did that. And all of a sudden, just after ¾ of a cup had gone in, I knew that something was wrong. The sound in the food processor changed from a nice, thick stirring sound, to a sloshing sound. And I knew: I had broken the sauce. I kept running it for a minute or two, hoping it would come back together, but it was too late. I then went and checked the Julia Child recipe, and of course she says never to add more than ¾ of a cup of oil per egg yolk. If only I had listened to her first…

The broken aioli… so beautiful and thick just moments before

By this time, we had two slightly overcooked artichokes and chicken breast tenders, so we decided to make the best of it and use the broken, runny aioli as artichoke dip anyway. And on taste alone, it wasn’t half bad. I thought about making another batch, just to get the technique right, but realized that we’d then have almost two cups of sauce, which is probably more than we’d eat in, oh, a month. A little excessive, just to prove that I can do it. So I’ll save that attempt for another day.

The final product, with Mark’s homemade honey mustard and my failed aioli

My healthier version, with the chicken steamed instead of breaded and sautéed

Onward to new cooking adventures!


  1. I don't know if you've attempted any more emulsion sauces since this one, but...take it from me: it's extremely easy to make this sauce if you just use a an old-fashioned whisk. Much easier, more controlled and reliable doing it by hand than in a food processor, or using an immersion blender. Now get whisking!


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