Unlike most Duke’s Mayonnaise fans, chef Vivek Surti discovered it later in life. As a first generation American, he grew up with Hellmann’s, and it was simply used for sandwiches along “with the other American condiments in the house” that his Indian parents stocked. It wasn’t until the Mayogate debate that took over food blogs in 2013 (arguing the superiority of Hellmann’s versus Duke’s versus Kewpie) that Surti started to consider that a mayonnaise is not always just a mayonnaise.
Living in Nashville, he started noticing Duke’s Mayonnaise cropping up throughout the culinary scene. Owners of food trucks around the city sang Duke’s praises. As Surti began cooking for the Nashville community, sourcing ingredients and products from the South became more important to him. Duke’s, he reasons, is a Southern mayo. “It’s a delicious mayonnaise—even though [my family] doesn’t have the heritage—but I don’t remember the last time I bought a mayonnaise that wasn’t Duke’s.”
After exploring the ingredient over the years, Surti now lauds it for its various cooking utilities. Any time a recipe calls for eggs and oil, Surti knows that Duke’s Mayonnaise covers both ingredients and will add an acidic pop to the flavor. As a result, he leans on it for baking, as an agent to help brown and crisp the exterior of meats and poultry as they roast and grill, and even as a marinade.
“In India, we do a marinade that has a lot of yogurt in it, which is a tenderizer. [Because the yogurt holds in so much moisture] it’s hard to get the chicken to brown without overcooking it. Duke’s has a sour edge and it helps with browning and develops a nice crust.” He combines both yogurt and Duke’s as a marinade for chicken curry that crisps and browns each chicken piece while keeping them most and succulent within.
At Surti’s restaurant, Tailor Nashville, everything on the menu is made from scratch. However, Duke’s is a regular member at the staff’s family meals. Sometimes it’s used as a base for sauce—lending creamy emulsification to macaroni and cheese and alfredo. Other times, the chefs will mix it into a cauliflower or vegetable mixture and stuff it inside bread or rolls, or they’ll add it to cornbread recipes for a custardy interior. One of Surti’s chefs slathers it on bread slices before toasting them. Another texted him a photo the week before Thanksgiving with his latest recipe test: a whole turkey on the smoker, smothered with Duke’s Mayonnaise.
When thinking about his own holiday recipes, Surti sees unlimited possibilities for ways that Duke’s can elevate the traditional: as a crust or glaze for turkey, as additional fat for bread rolls, or as a swap for an egg in stuffing. Mixing it with herbs, lemon zest, and sambal makes for a quick appetizer spread for crudité. And yeah, Surti says, cream cheese and pepper jelly is a classic, but have you ever had cream cheese and Duke’s smothered with pepper jelly? Now, THAT combination is fire.
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- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by TLP's Partners