Sunday, July 1, 2012

Guacamole: a love story.

It was a Friday night. I had worked the lunch shift at the Blue Heron that day. Trevor had a late night of sales. We both managed to shower and meet up at what was then his house (now mine, strange - right?) on Vander Ave. The house has three floors - the third of which has been cleverly entitled “the third floor man cave” for as long as I’ve known Trevor. And that’s where we were sitting, on mismatched chairs, when the brilliant idea came to us. The only thing we had managed to decide upon at that point was how hungry we were. Doug was about to order pizza or something deep fried and delivered - his dietary staple to this day - but it was a Friday and we were determined to go out. With my food allergies, the options had all been overdone - we had been to Round the Clock far too many times, and any type of fast food or Italian was out of the question. And then, Trevor suggested Mexican food and I knew then, just why I loved him. (I’m kidding of course but damn it, I did love him more for that moment - I was hungry).

What I remember most clearly from the night was that Trevor seemed to take the longest route possible to our restaurant of choice. Though it only takes three turns - one right and two lefts - to make it to the highway, Trevor insisted upon the most backwards of routes. Normally, I have all the patience in the world when Trevor’s driving - this girl loves his big red Tahoe and it’s heated seats - but that night, I was hungry.

And I have to say, nothing could have been a more perfect dinner that night (or any night) than Mexican.

At this point, you’re probably wondering the point of this conversation so far. Yes, you get it - I like Mexican food. I like eating Mexican with my boyfriend. (But there’s more to the story and a transition into a guacamole recipe so it’s worth the read.) As excited as I was to order, I felt my stomach turn when Trevor ordered every dish with extra guacamole. Thankfully we were able to agree that no sour cream would come near our food less it be ruined. But still, I couldn’t get over the thought of mushy yet chunky green.. spread? dip? let’s stick with mush.. poured over our appetizer.

And then I began to fall in love.
(With guacamole, that is - I was already in deep for Trevor at this point.)

It wasn’t love at first bite, though. This was one of those foods that had long been on my list of “what not to eat” and I wasn’t quick to change my mind. A few more visits to El Rodeo.. a few trips picking up Mexican for the guys at work.. and eventually, something happened and I couldn’t get enough.

Here’s the sad part of the story though - my love of guacamole was so insatiable that I resorted to purchasing prepackaged varieties under clever names like “Wholy Guacamole”. I was convinced that since so many restaurants provided bad guacamole, it must be difficult to make and my intimidated self wasn’t about to play with cilantro, avocados and limes, even in the name of love.

Eventually, after enough conjoling and reassurance on the ease of making guacamole from our new chef, and former professional burrito maker, Jason - plus a 10/$10 sale on avocados - I decided to try it for myself. (Plus, I was eating half of my tips each week in processed guacamole. Gross.)

Now, I’ve been told that it’s the "best guacamole” by three chefs and a guy from Mexico. Not bad, right? Well, before leaving for Montana, I was given the instructions that I could only leave if I provided a batch and a recipe to the boys I work with and here I am, happily obliging on the second half of our deal. (I took care of the first half with an employee taco night and damn were those tacos good.)

My recipe is simple - and adapted from a version by Alton Brown. (Like I said, I was new to this whole thing).

To make a nice, large, bowl of guacamole, you will need the following ingredients:
3 Avocados (choosing perfectly ripe avocados is the key to great guacamole, so take your time.)
1 Lime (make sure to choose a soft juicy one)
1/2 Teaspoon of Fresh Ground Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon of Hot Sauce - I prefer a cayenne base but have a feeling that Sriracha would work well, too
1 Red Onion
1 Vine Ripened Tomato
1 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Cup of Frozen Corn

It’s also easiest if you have access to a big bowl with a lid, a potato masher and plastic wrap.

First, you will want to prepare your avocados. If you’ve never done this before, and are worried about it, check out this video. This was one of my biggest apprehensions of making guacamole but I promise, it’s simple.

After you have your avocados prepared, toss them in a big bowl and proceed to squeeze the juice of the whole lime over the fruits. If you don’t have a citrus juicer, you can cut the lime in half and place it between the handles of a pair of tongs. Squeeze, then turn the lime 90 degrees and squeeze again.

Though Alton Brown suggest draining out the leftover lime juice, I like to leave it all in my guacamole.

At this point, grind approximately 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (or sprinkle kosher salt) over the avocados. Also add 1 teaspoon of hot sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. If you’d like a spicier or less spicy version, this is the time to make your adjustments.

Then, to combine the ingredients, simply mash with a potato masher. Personally, I like my guacamole chunky but if you prefer a smooth variation, simply mash until no visible chunks are seen.

You can let this mixture sit while you proceed to chop approximately half of a medium sized red onion and one regular sized vine ripened tomato. I find that smaller pieces work better for this recipe so that the flavors can be combined more but once again - it’s flexible. In the end, you’ll want about a cup of onions and a cup of tomatoes. You will also want to measure 1 cup of frozen corn - no need to thaw for this recipe.

You will then need to mince two cloves of fresh garlic and chop your bunch of cilantro. I find that approximately two tablespoons is enough cilantro for me but you can also go with Alton’s more conservative recommendation of one.

Then it’s simple - mix the remaining ingredients into your avocado mixture. For best taste, I let my guacamole sit overnight (after a few obligatory bites when I’m finished, of course). One of the biggest challenges that I have found though is how quickly guacamole will brown. While it’s still perfectly safe and tasty to eat, this can be unappetizing when you are the one who opens the dish. To keep my guacamole as green as possible, I leave at least one avocado pit in the bowl and then press plastic wrap tightly against the surface of the guacamole before snapping on the lid to the bowl.

This recipe will make a large portion of guacamole, perfect for a family or a small get together. But, that’s not to say I’ve ever had a problem consuming the whole bowl.. on my own.. in two days.

I love guacamole on burgers, in the bottom of tacos, on salads, with tortilla chips, as a spread for sandwiches, and even eaten alone by the spoonful. What’s your favorite way to eat guacamole? 

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