guacamole. the great unifier, a solution to all of life’s problems. wallowing over a bad break-up? guacamole. celebrating a promotion? guacamole (& margaritas!). vying to win the popularity contest at your upcoming office pot-luck or hoping to make new friends at a super bowl party? guacamole.
guacamole, guacamole, guacamole.
my love affair with guacamole began back in my college days, when i learned the secret tricks to making the *perfect* guacamole.
*perfect* guacamole? you may have your doubts…but trust me, it is. it’s the kind of guacamole that has everyone you feed it to asking for your recipe (true story). it’s the kind of guacamole that makes your significant other confidently declare “i love you.” (true story). it’s the kind of guacamole that can help you conquer the world (not yet a true story, but it could totally happen…).
the summer before my senior year, i took a job waiting tables in downtown milwaukee at a super-trendy latin fusion tapas restaurant (say that ten times fast!). managed by what was then one of the hottest restaurant groups in the metro, the restaurant’s concept was to cater to the young professional crowd with late night nosh before or after hitting up the clubs across the street. one of this restaurant’s biggest claims to fame was its tableside guacamole presentation, which involved a guacamole cart that would be rolled up to your table for you to witness the greatness in the making.
little did i know, upon accepting this job, i was also signing myself up to schlep around that damn cart until the wee hours of the morning. needless to say, not the most glamorous job ever…but every cloud has a silver lining, & cloud of guacamole cart-schlepping has a lining that is full of this spicy & acidic & creamy gloriousness that is basically its own food group in our household.
the secret to a really great guac is a molcajete (mohl-kah-het-ay).
essentially a large mortar & pestle, a molcajete is a porous bowl whose abrasive surface is great for ensuring you get all of the flavor out of the food you prepare in it.
*perfect* guacamole starts by putting the base ingredients (diced red onion, minced jalapeño, garlic salt, lime juice) into the bowl of the molcajete & using the pestle to smash these ingredients together, releasing all of their juices (i.e. flavor), before mixing in two avocados & a healthy amount of cilantro. unlike merely stirring all of the ingredients together, this crucial step is essential for ensuring that your end product is full of flavor in every bite.
don’t have a molcajete? no problem. neither do i.
i’ve found that you can replicate this step easily (& with less mess!) by popping the same base ingredients into a zip top bag & whacking it to oblivion with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy pan.
making a guac that is full of flavor & working out pent up aggression? two birds, one stone! just be careful to not be too forceful. if you go too cray cray on the bag, its corners can burst open…messy & not fun.
once you’ve got your base flavors ready (remember: jalapeño, red onion, garlic salt, lime juice), dispense the contents of your zip top bag into a bowl. add two avocados, spices (i like cumin & coriander, & you can also add red chili flake or sriracha for an extra kick), a handful of fresh cilantro & mash together until you get your desired consistency (i like it to be pretty smooth, but to also have texture).
you can top your guac with pretty much anything you’d like – diced tomatoes, fresh jalapeño, hot sauce, queso fresco, etc. my favorite? a simple handful of cilantro, squeeze of lime juice, & a dash of salt (especially if it’s sriracha salt).
serve with chips or veggies (peppers, carrots, radishes) & devour.
the restaurant has since gone under, as has its famous guacamole cart, & also my ability to stay up past ten pm, but don’t fret. lucky for you, i’ve got the formula for you to make your own *perfect* guacamole, along with some pointers i’ve acquired in my years of guacamole making below. give it a try, dig in, & tell me what you think!
- 2 avocados
- 1 jalapeño
- 1/4 red onion
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 heaping tsp ground cumin
- 1 heaping tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- finely chop the jalapeño & red onion. depending on how spicy you like your guacamole you can de-stem & de-seed the jalapeño. in our house, we enjoy quite a bit of kick so we leave all the seeds & stem in. when we make guac to share with a group we de-stem & de-seed half of the jalapeño, & when we know we're sharing the guac with someone who is sensitive to spice, we de-stem & de-seed the whole shebang.
- add the chopped jalapeño & red onion to a ziploc bag along with the garlic salt, cumin, & coriander & seal the bag tight, pressing out as much air as you can (this is important!!).
- using a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy pan, smash the contents of the bag to release the juices of the onion & jalapeño.
- scrape the contents of the ziploc bag into a bowl, adding the flesh of 2 avocados. use a wooden spoon to gently smash the avocados & stir in the onion/jalapeño mixture. add the lime juice, a handful of chopped cilantro, & some red chili flake to the bowl & stir until homogenous.
- the best part: taste test!! depending on the size of your avocados you may need to add more spice, salt, or lime juice.
- place into serving dish & garnish (totally optional - totally encouraged).
- repeat (frequently).
- 1. aside from taking the time to create your base flavors, the other crucial aspect of a great guac is perfectly ripe avocados.
- there are a couple of tricks for making the right decision in the grocery store & similar to goldilocks much of it has to do with balance; not too much of this nor too much of that, they need to be just right. first, look for the right color. hass avocados are a shiny brown-ish green when ripe. if the ones in your store are bright green, they’re way under; if they look matte, then they’re way over. second, give it a gentle (& i mean gentle) squeeze. a ripe avocado will give just slightly to the pressure of your hand. if it is hard, it is way under; if it is mushy or you can feel an air pocket between the skin & flesh, it’s sadly over.
- 2. tip! don’t let under-ripe avocados discourage you. i actually prefer to buy them pretty green & let them ripen on my counter for another couple of days. this way i can ensure that once they’re ready i have them at my disposal to make a batch of guac.
- 3. another tip? salt & lime juice are your best friend. avocados are fatty; when you eat them they coat your mouth & you need a healthy amount of salt & lime to cut through that fattiness & create a balanced bite. if people complain that avocados taste bland, it’s definitely because they’re not using enough salt & lime. start with what i recommend below in the recipe, but remember to taste & modify as needed. avocados vary in size so the appropriate amount of salt & lime varies too. go overboard on salt & have another avocado hanging around? mix it in; it should help tremendously.
- 4. trying to make this amazingness in advance? sorry, not the greatest idea. while the flavors do meld & develop over time, the avocado also oxidizes (i.e. turns brownish & mushy & goes a little sour as it comes into contact with oxygen). guacamole is best served fresh, however, don’t let that crush your hopes & dreams if you were volun-told to bring it with you to a weekend get-away at your fiancé’s family’s lake house (not that it’s ever happened to me, or anything…). i’ve found that you can definitely prep the base ingredients & get your seasoning right using aforementioned zip top bag method. pack your zip top bag of flavor, 2 ripe avocados, chopped cilantro & any other toppings you want, & a bowl. when you’re ready to wow the crowd, mix up all of your ingredients on the spot & serve!
- 5. looking to store this amazingness? see above. not the greatest idea due to oxidation. i’ve seen wives tales about storing guac with the avocado pits, but unfortunately it is just a wives tale & it won’t prevent browning. browning is the result of a chemical reaction with oxygen. the only way to prolong it from happening is to prevent oxygen from getting to your guac. your best bet is to store in an air-tight container. before popping the top on, press a layer of plastic wrap firmly on the surface of the guacamole which will help protect it from its oxygen nemesis. it won’t make the guac last forever, but it will help it survive a couple of days in the fridge.
- 6. final tip? two words: double batch. you so won’t be sorry.