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In cooking, mayonnaise is a thick, white, creamy, cold sauce; an emulsion of fat (usually vegetable oil) suspended in a matrix of egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice, and seasonings. It is said to have been created by the chef of the Duc de Richelieu in 1756 to celebrate the Duc's victory over the British at the port of Mahon (the capital of Minorca in the Balearic Islands).

Mayonnaise is made by slowly introducing oil into the other liquids while whisking vigorously to break up the fat into small droplets that will become dispersed in the liquid. The egg yolks provide lecithin[?], which stabilizes the emulsion. It is then seasoned with salt and sometimes other seasonings.

Mayonnaise is eaten while cold, for instance on sandwiches (mainly in North America) and on French fries (mainly in northern Europe). It is also often used as a base for many other cold sauces with more varied ingredients. Aioli, for example, is a garlic-flavored mayonnaise. Popular herbed mayonnaises include tartar sauce. Many salad dressings are mayonnaise-based, including "Russian" dressing which is a combination of mayonnaise with tomato sauce, and "Thousand Island", which is Russian dressing with pickles and herbs.

Homemade mayonnaise can approach 75% fat before the emulsion breaks down; commercial mayonnaises are more typically 65-70% fat. Commercial products typically replace much or all of the egg yolk with water, requiring the addition of lecithin or other emulsifiers from sources such as soy (some commercial mayonnaises may thus be appropriate for vegans). "Low fat" mayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel, or other ingredients to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise.

Since homemade mayonnaise contains raw egg yolks, it poses a danger of salmonella poisoning. Commercial producers pasteurize the yolks, or freeze them, and substitute water for most of their liquid, or use other emulsifiers. At home, be sure to use the freshest eggs possible, and thoroughly clean them before use. Some stores sell pasteurized eggs for home use. You can also coddle the eggs in 170° water and remove the hot yolks from the whites which will have cooked slightly. Homemade mayonnaise will only keep under refrigeration for three to four days. A lower-fat version can be made with "silken" tofu.

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