Ashley Strickland Freeman follows the Duke’s Real Mayonnaise diet
Whether it is to make a three-layer strawberry-rhubarb cake or rum-spiked Bananas Foster bread moist, peach-filled crepes extra soft or Nashville hot chicken pieces tender and serve them with fluffy buttermilk cornbread waffles, the zippy condiment is her secret ingredient.
“I grew up with Duke’s and really didn’t know about any other kind of mayo until I went to culinary school in New York,” says the Charleston, S.C., resident. “It was the only mayo my family ever used.”
After earning a degree in journalism and one in culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, she worked at the Oxmoor House test kitchens in Birmingham, Ala. That’s when she realized she could pursue a career in food without being a chef. So she turned to writing recipes for cookbooks and becoming a food editor and food stylist.
That led to the dream of writing her own cookbook, but she didn’t have a platform or a theme. It was Duke’s that came to her rescue.
“One day, I opened up my refrigerator door and there was a mayo jar staring me in my face. A light bulb went off,” she recalls.
Three years later, “The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook” (Grand Central Publishing; June 2020) came to fruition. Bold and beautiful, the 75-recipe book pops with the company’s signature colors. Sunshine yellow, black and red are splashed throughout its chapters along with illustrations of the mayo jar. Renowned chefs share their “spiels” of how and why they fell in love with Duke’s.
The cookbook is packed with both classic and unexpected recipes. Instead of a Southern standard slices of spongy white bread slathered with mayo and stacked with sliced tomatoes she features an avocado BLT sandwich layered with basil mayo and built on thick sourdough bread. A mayo-based chicken salad, studded with salted pistachios, dried sweetened cranberries and green onions, takes on a curry accent softened with honey. Generous amounts of mayonnaise make their way into chocolate chip cookies and a plum upside-down cake. There’s even a pappardelle bolognese.
“I always loved my grandmother’s Bolognese sauce and I wanted to have a recipe that acknowledged her. But you don’t put mayo in a spaghetti sauce, and so I incorporated it into the pasta,” she says.
Tarragon Crab Cakes
“The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook” by Ashley Strickland Freeman (Grand Central Publishing; June 2020)
Getting the most out of crab cakes means putting the least into them. All the lump crabmeat needs is some mayonnaise, fresh breadcrumbs and tarragon to end up as chunky, delicious cakes. Dab on some homemade lemon shallot tartar sauce and they will taste like heaven.
Lemon Shallot Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced dill pickles
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve or up to 2 days.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
For crab cakes
1 pound lump crabmeat
11/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, tarragon and/or watercress for garnish, optional
Gently pick through the crabmeat to remove any shell or cartilage. Place in a medium bowl with the breadcrumbs.
Stir together mayonnaise, parsley, tarragon, lemon zest and paprika. Pour over the crabmeat mixture and toss gently to combine. Shape the mixture into 8 patties.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook crab cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned and heated through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with lemon wedges and Lemon Shallot Tartar Sauce. Garnish with herbs if desired.
Buffalo Chicken Sliders
Makes 12 sliders. Adapted from “The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook” by Ashley Strickland Freeman (Grand Central Publishing; June 2020)
These chicken sliders will cast a spell on you. Extremely moist from the mayonnaise, piquantly spicy from the Buffalo sauce, they are delightful on a multiseed bun with a homemade blue cheese sauce.
Blue Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes about 1 cup.
For chicken sliders
11/2 pounds ground chicken
4 tablespoons Buffalo sauce, or more if desired, divided
1 tablespoon Duke’s mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 slider buns
1 cup celery leaves or torn Bibb lettuce leaves
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
In a medium bowl, combine ground chicken, 2 tablespoons of Buffalo sauce, mayonnaise and garlic powder. With wet hands, shape the mixture into 12 equal patties (it will be sticky).
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook patties for 2 to 3 minutes on one side until browned. Turn patties and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes until they’re done, Baste with the remaining Buffalo sauce.
To serve, spread blue cheese sauce on the bottom of the buns. Top the patty with celery leaves or torn Bibb lettuce and carrots. Replace the top of the buns and serve.
Bananas Foster Bread
Makes 8 servings. “The Duke’s Mayonnaise Cookbook” by Ashley Strickland Freeman (Grand Central Publishing; June 2020)
The mayonnaise makes this New Orleans-inspired banana bread extra moist. But the goodness does not end there. The bread is topped with a browned butter rum glaze.
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 or 4 large ones)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
1 large egg
2/3 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
3 tablespoons golden or dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 banana, sliced lengthwise
Browned Butter-Rum Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat together mashed bananas, brown sugar, egg, mayonnaise, rum and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the banana mixture and stir just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Top with the sliced banana, cut sides up. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack. Make the Browned Butter-Rum Glaze while the bread cools.
Remove the bread from the pan and drizzle with the glaze.
Browned Butter-Rum Glaze
Makes about 1/2 cup.
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons golden or dark rum
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Cook butter in a small skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the milk solids begin to brown and smell nutty.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the rum. Return to the heat and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute longer to cook off the alcohol. (If using a gas burner, carefully flambe the mixture.)
Transfer the glaze to a small bowl and whisk in sugar until smooth.