Having just made my first batch of guacamole for the year, I thought it would be a good time to share my favorite recipe. And of course we're just a few days from Cinco de Mayo. My wife's and my first date was on Cinco de Mayo. We decided to go eat at a Mexican restaurant, but the funny thing was, we were so focused on the date that we were unaware it was Cinco de Mayo. It was quite the surprise to find the restaurant we'd chosen overflowing with people waiting to get in. Fortunately we found a newer place down the street that had a spot. True story. We've taken note of the date ever since.
In the early days of making guacamole I tried several recipes, but none measured up to the Chunky Guacamole from Tyler Florence. As often happens with great recipes you make year after year, I've modified this one a bit, and have found the secret to success lies as much in the technique and quality of the ingredients as it does in the recipe itself. Let's start with the ingredients as Tyler listed them:
- 4 ripe avocados
- 3 limes, juiced
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 2 serrano chiles, sliced thinly
- 1 big handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To my surprise after reviewing the original recipe, I found that I'd modified more than half the ingredients over the years without realizing it, likely because I felt I knew the recipe by heart and didn't need to look at it. Here's the way I just made it yesterday:
- 6 ripe avocados
- 3 limes, juiced (2 were large, one tiny; I typically use 4 medium)
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped
- 2 serrano chiles, cored and minced
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, including the stems, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil (Il Cavallino from Olivelle)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Tyler calls for scooping out and mashing the avocados with a fork, leaving chunks, then folding in the remaining ingredients before covering with plastic wrap and chilling for an hour. I never make this recipe with that much delicacy, but rather halve the avocados, remove the pits with the heel of my chef's knife, scoop them out with a big spoon, and dump them in a mixing bowl. I juice the limes over the avocados to keep them from starting to oxidize, then move on to the other ingredients.
I like the red onion finely chopped rather than minced. We're going for chunky guacamole here, and I feel that mincing them doesn't leave enough texture. A fine chop leaves just the right size bits between coarse and minced.
I also have found that in any party or gathering, some people are going to shy away from the guac if they see whole slices of serrano in it. Some people can't handle spice or simply don't like it in guac, but a little heat definitely adds to the flavor profile. Instead, I slice the serranos lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith. This removes most but not all of the heat. Then I mince them and throw them in the bowl. More texture, a little heat, but the non-spice people try it and love it anyway.
A note on serranos, protect your skin. Use vinyl or food service gloves if you can and don't touch your face before throwing them away. I'm sure you all know someone who has cut chiles and then wiped their cheek, or...eyes. Yeah, I did that once. ONCE.
The garlic clove, or two if you prefer, should be crushed early on so it sits and gets even more beneficial for you (see blog, "How to Make Great Rice Every Time"). At this point, hey, you've done enough chopping and mincing, save some time and use the Garlic Twister! (What is this, a product placement, or a blog? BOTH, of course). Throw that in the bowl too.
Now the cilantro. My wife will fondly tell anyone who will listen that one of the greatest things I've ever done for her is introduce her to cilantro. This is a key ingredient. If you're one of those people with the genetic profile that prevents you from tasting the full cilantro flavor and instead tastes soap, I am truly sorry for you. It's not your fault. But honestly, cilantro is key here. Use a whole bunch, rinse it well, make sure it's all fresh leaves, and use the stems as well. Chop the stems finely, and the leaves coarsely. Save this in pile for the last step.
Now take your beautifully rich and golden or green extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it in the bowl. How much is that? Up to you. Let's say, four or five seconds. You're adding fat to help mix the flavors together, but you don't want to identify it specifically when you eat the guac. Same with the salt and pepper, season to taste, because it is important to the final product. Just don't overdo it. You don't want anyone saying it tastes salty or is too peppery.
Now take a potato masher and start mashing everything together, but be careful. We want to leave chunks of avocado and not end up with the pasty, smooth guacamole typical of grocery stores and food service. Stop after a little bit and stir it around with a spoon or spatula to check your progress. Less is more.
Final step: Okay Tyler, we'll fold here. Fold in the cilantro until the whole batch looks evenly mixed together. Taste a little to make sure you haven't missed anything or overdone an ingredient that needs adjusting, but keep in mind it's going to taste better after a couple hours of chilling. Tyler says one hour, I say two. It is amazing how things comes together after a couple hours in the cold, with any dip. Layer plastic wrap over the top and put that bowl in the fridge. Prior to serving, put some in a small bowl and let it warm up just a little. Choose a chip and go to town. If you did it right, there won't be any left when the party is over. Either that or you didn't invite enough people!
A final note on the selection of ingredients. It is obviously important in cooking to select the freshest ingredients possible. But If there is one ingredient that I've learned over the years is absolutely key to this guacamole, it's the avocados. Makes sense, right? The problem is sometimes in the supply. If you're shopping for them the night before Cinco de Mayo, you may not have a great selection. I have made some really mediocre batches of this recipe, and it always came down to having inferior fruit. Not just overripe, black avocados, but under ripe watery ones as well.
Picking avocados is an art. You get better with time. In general, avoid the deep black ones, the ones that squish under your fingers immediately when you pick them up, and the ones that seem not to weigh as much as they should. Those are way past their prime. Also avoid the greener ones that feel like rocks when you pick them up. The sweet spot is the dark-but-not-black, firm avocado that gives underneath your fingertip, but still offers a little resistance. When you slice it open, it should be soft and uniformly green, easily mashed, little to no black. When you take this home you should either make the recipe right away or put the avocados in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. Just use them within a few days and you'll be fine.
There you have it. Chunky Guacamole to please the party goers. Serve it up, make some good margaritas, and you're in business. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Wait, what, no tomatoes? No. Those are for salsa.
Just for fun:
Cinco de Mayo - History.com
The Rise of the Avocado, America's New Favorite Fruit - Washington Post
Health Benefits of Avocados - WebMD