Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect Guacamole

There is no good reason to buy already prepared guacamole. It is quite easy to make a delicious version if  you start with good ingredients. Buy fresh, whole avocado, serrano or jalapeño chilies, red onion, garlic, cilantro, lime and salt.

The avocado must be ripe enough to be springy when you squeeze a little, but not squishy or soft. The chilies should be firm and intensely colored whether green, red, or both. Serrano chilies tend to be spicier, but it varies greatly from chili to chili. If you want a serious kick go for the habaneros (with caution, please). Red onions and garlic heads should not have any soft spots or deep discolorations. Cilantro should be green and lustrous, not brown and wilty. Heads up, cilantro and parsley are not the same thing, so ask if you aren't sure. Limes should be firm but not hard, smooth skinned and bright green.

I’m being deliberately vague about quantities, but the ones I mention are for one large avocado. Taste your work often with a spoon, not chips. The salty chip will skew your perception of the flavors.

Dice the garlic first and let it breathe while you chop up everything else. One clove should be plenty.
Slice the avocado(s) all the way around the long way (from the pointy end to the round end then up the other side) then twist the halves a little to pull them apart. Be gentle! To remove the pit, firmly put a knife in it as if you want to cut it in half and pull it out.
Use a spoon and scoop the flesh out into a bowl, avoiding any blackish parts. Smash the avocado with the tines of a fork until it is chunky. You might need to add a little water (but just a dribble).
Roll a lime against the counter, putting pressure on it with the flat of your hand. This releases the juices and softens the lime to make it easier to squeeze. Cut it in half and squeeze half over the avocado. Set aside the other half to add as needed for moisture and to prevent the avocado fro oxidizing (turning brown).
Dice the chilies and add them. Remove some or all of the seeds before dicing to control the level of spice, although since I like it hot I leave them in. Use one jalapeño or a couple serranos at most.
Dice a quarter of a red onion and add it (you can add more later if necessary).
Add the garlic.
Tear off a small handful of cilantro, wash it and roughly chop it. Add it to the bowl.
Still using the fork, mix everything up and gently mash. If dry, add more lime or water.
Salt to taste. Add more of anything that it needs until you love it.

Sprinkle a little queso fresco on top to serve with chips. Put it on top of tacos, quesadillas or tortas, turkey sandwiches, gazpacho…really on anything that you think would be tasty.

If you don’t like anything that I’ve included, I give you permission to take it out. Get creative with your guac: put fruits like mango or peach in it for a tropical vibe, add kumquats or oranges for a citrus kick…anything goes. But remember, if all variations fail you, the classic version above will always be delicious.

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