Take a peek into the wild kitchens and labs of renowned chef and molecular gastronomy master Wylie Dufresne, with wd-50: The Cookbook. While you won’t find any quick and easy dinners in this formidable tome, make sure to pick it up if you’re looking to break into the science of his stunning dishes (or simply wish to admire them at length). Ever wonder how to deep-fry mayonnaise the Dufresne way? 

Reprinted with permission from wd~50: The Cookbook

When I set out to make deep-fried mayonnaise, I figured I just needed to firm it up so I could cut it into cubes, bread it, and fry it. Gelatin seemed like the obvious solution. I dissolved gelatin in a tiny amount of water and blended it into a traditional mayonnaise. But when I put the breaded cubes into the fryer, all hell broke loose. Water and hot oil do not like each other. Freezing didn’t work either. The answer eventually came from Chris Young, a research chef at the Fat Duck who later became the chef behind Modernist Cuisine and the website ChefSteps. He suggested incorporating gellan, a gelling agent with a high heat tolerance, into our mayonnaise.

At the time, we were really starting to understand gums and the science behind them, thanks in part to a great book called Handbook of Hydrocolloids. We figured out that to make deep- fried mayo, we would need both gelatin (to firm it up for portioning) and gellan (to keep it stable in the fryer). But as we continued experimenting, we hit another hurdle: The eggs kept curdling in the fryer. So we added milk, which gave us a water- based element needed to hydrate the gellan and help it do its magic. We blended the gellan into the milk, brought it up to a boil, added bloomed gelatin, and then started beating in the oil. As the temperature in the pot dropped, the gellan started setting and the whole mixture broke. I was trying to mount oil into a gel— a liquid into a solid. That was when I had the a ha moment: I needed to keep everything above a certain temperature so the gellan and the gelatin were both in the same state: liquid, not solid. Gellan sets, or forms its gel matrix, very quickly when it drops below 180°F. I had to keep the oil hot.

This should have been the moment of truth, but when the mixture set up and we cut it into cubes, it was a warm, solid gel. It wasn’t creamy. We didn’t want to fry a solid gel, we wanted to fry a fluid gel— we needed a little motion. So this time, when our mayonnaise started to set, we used an immersion blender to purée it into a “fluid gel.” By doing this, we successfully decimated the gellan’s matrix. When we chilled the mixture, our old friend gelatin came to the party and firmed up the mayonnaise so we could cut it into cubes. We then breaded it, fried it briefly for color, and popped it in the oven for a minute to heat it through and effectively melt the gelatin once again. We cut open the cubes and voilà— deep-fried mayonnaise!