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Holy Guacamole!

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"There are few things in this world more lamentable than so-called Mexican restaurants lacking the common decency to serve excellent guacamole, salsa
and Margaritas.
These miserable places are to be avoided at all costs.”
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Large Margarita
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Ybarra, Frank
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Amelie Vuillon
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Photographic Print

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Nachos with Guacamole
Nachos with Guacamole
Photographic Print

Horan, Eric
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La Belle Cuisine


Guacamole, Unlimited

Feast of Santa Fe:
Cooking of the American Southwest

by Huntley Dent, 1985/1993, Simon & Schuster

“Of the few charmed Hispanic dishes that have reached celebrity status, guaca-
mole must be the best known. From its humble beginnings as ‘Indian butter’
through the California-cult era and now into an age of near universality, this
simple preparation of mashed avocados has remained cheerfully durable. The
only way to spoil guacamole is to use unripe avocados, to leave in large chunks
of raw onion as an unpleasant surprise to the innocent consumer, or to make it
too far ahead of time. Besides turning brown (a fate that can be more-or-less
avoided by pressing plastic wrap directly onto its surface), a guacamole left
standing for more than 30 minutes loses the delicacy of a fresh-cut avocado.
Ideally, it should be made at the last moment and stirred with a light hand.
Guacamole has been the object of unlimited experimentations. Some are time-honored variations, like the guacamole with green tomatoes from northern
Mexico [tomatillos]. Others are obvious shortcuts perpetrated by restaurants.
Visitors to Santa Fe quite naturally want to taste this famous specialty of the
Southwest, so there is constant pressure for the local restaurants to produce
some guacamole, any guacamole, no matter if avocados are not ripe or tomatoes
out of season. The standard recipe of at least one immensely popular restaurant
calls merely for mashing an avocado with half a teaspoon of garlic salt! To my
mind that is not guacamole at all. [Amen!] Before giving several recipes for
guacamole and its variants, I have listed nine approaches that turned up in
my casual research. By memorizing these, you can instantly settle any pas-
sionate arguments over what is true guacamole – all of them are. If you are
not intrigued, go directly to the recipes that follow.
As for how to serve guacamole, it is usually considered a sauce to begin with,
but Southwestern restaurants invariably serve it on lettuce as a salad, as a side
dish with a combination plate and as a garnish to dollop over chalupas and
burritos. Somewhat less popular, but still encountered, is using it to stuff en-
chiladas or tacos. It is mandatory as the topping for flautas, crisp-fried little
‘flutes’ made of corn tortillas stuffed with shredded beef or chicken [or pork].
Although the word most often applied to the taste of a ripe avocado is ‘bland,’ guacamole has the ability to mask the taste of almost any dish it is paired with.
When the cooks of Veracruz use it to sauce grilled swordfish, they add enough
lime juice to make the avocado taste noticeably tart. I think that is a good idea
whenever you are serving guacamole as a sauce for any grilled meat or poultry.
However you ask it to perform, guacamole tastes best with all its ingredients
are cool, considerably below room temperature. Do not heat the guacamole in
the oven with the dish it is to garnish, unless it is the stuffing for enchiladas.
By all means do not serve it refrigerated, however, a ruinous practice fostered
by restaurants.

Now for the styles of guacamole:

1. The mainstream style, so to speak, is to mash ripe avocado roughly with
chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned green chiles and a fairly small amount
of chopped onion. Green coriander (cilantro) is optional, as is a dash of
lemon or lime juice, or garlic. [Note: These “optional” additions are
essentials, in the humble opinion of LBC.]
2. Same ingredients and texture as the mainstream type, but sour cream is
added as a blending agent. [Purists scoff at this, but I have used it with
Ultimate Nachos” and received rave reviews: “What DID you put in
the guacamole???”]
3. The same as number 2, but made even blander by the omission of all
chiles. [No. Please!]
4. Back to the mainstream version, but leaving out all onion. [Why?]
5. Again the same as the mainstream version, but given a different texture
by not mashing the ingredients together at all, merely roughing them
up a bit. The results are more salad than sauce, further pronounced
if a crunchy chopped bell pepper is added.
6. A purée of avocado, green chili, onion and a large dash of lime juice.
This is sometimes called a Veracruz guacamole. It customarily omits
the tomatoes.
7. A purée of avocado with only a garlic clove and lemon juice for flavoring.
If used for a sauce, a little or a lot of sour cream may also be whipped
in. If used as a salad, sliced tomato is placed on top. Popular in many
8. Mainstream guacamole or one of the close variants to which [Mexican]
green tomatoes (tomatillos) have been added. This is one of the few
approaches that markedly change the taste of the guacamole. [Although
tomatillos belong to the same nightshade family as the tomato, its taste
is quite unique with hints of herbs, lemon and apple.]
9. Pristine purée of avocado. Innocent of any additives except a pinch of
garlic salt [why not actual garlic, and salt, please?!?!?], this travels in
many neighborhoods, including downtown Santa Fe, as guacamole.
[¡No me diga!]

None of the variations with sour cream added are much to my taste, and I
recoil if large chunks of raw white onion appear in the mash. It is probably
better to let guacamole rest on its own merits as produced by each separate
cook. As with much else in Santa Fe cooking, the expression of the cook’s
personality counts for much.”


Basic Guacamole

For 2 1/2 to 3 cups:

1/4 small red onion, cut into chunks
1 tomato, seeded and cut into chunks
2 large avocados (3 if the smooth variety,
which has a large pit), peeled
1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and chopped
[Or, you may want to include a dash or two of
cayenne or Tabasco to kick it up a notch if you
do not have a fresh jalapeño.]

Guacamole as a chunky salad is best made with a knife rather than a processor. Cut the onion, tomato and avocado flesh into rough 1/2-inch chunks, mash them in a bowl with a sturdy fork, then add the remaining seasonings. Made in this way, the guacamole is particularly good as a substitute for table salsa when the main dish is simple grilled meat or fish.
Produced with the processor, the guacamole will be finer grained, but it
should not be blended into utter smoothness or the tomato will turn it soupy.
If you do use the processor, a good way to control the chopping is first to process the onion and garlic with the metal blade, using repeated pulses until they are finely chopped. Remove them to a bowl and repeat the procedure with the tomato. Remove that in turn and process the avocado with all the remaining ingredients. Add it to the onion and tomato, mix lightly with a
fork, and serve immediately. If the guacamole must stand, keep it in a
cool place, but not refrigerated, with plastic wrap pressed directly onto
the surface to prevent discoloring. A well-made summertime guacamole
is even more refreshing when you skip the tortilla chips and eat it with
Romaine lettuce leaves or with the aid of jicama sticks.

Gardener’s Guacamole: If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable
patch, feel free to vary the formula given by adding chopped cucumber,
bell pepper, radishes, waxy yellow peppers – whatever will make the
guacamole lighter, crunchier and more refreshing.


Winter Guacamole

“Guacamole recipes that call for avocado and ripe tomato are rather like
asking you to buy pumpkins and asparagus at the same time. Unless you
live in California, the only winter tomatoes are pale and mealy, just at the
time when avocados are in abundance and at their cheapest. So here is a
recipe for winter guacamole without tomato. It is a simple formula, well
suited to the bland green-skinned avocados that show up from Florida in
December, but also good with the black wrinkly ones that have a more
emphatic and unctuous taste. The chilies called for in the list of ingre-
dients below are decidedly optional. Principally you are after the un-
adulterated pleasure of the first cheap avocado of the season.”

For about 1 1/2 cups of guacamole

2 avocados, halved, the flesh scooped
out with a spoon
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, mashed
Optional: Any or all of the following –
1 mild green chili, roasted and peeled;
1 jalapeño, either fresh or canned,
veins and seeds removed;
1/4 teaspoon cayenne;
2 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients, including the optional ones, except for salt and pepper, in the bowl of a food processor. Using repeated pulses, blend until
you reach a textured purée – about 8 pulses. Continuous processing will give you a smooth purée that can be used as a sauce, but for salads or by itself,
the guacamole seems better for having some unpuréed bits left in. Season to taste with salt and pepper, beginning with only a small amount if the natural sweetness of the avocado appeals to you. Serve immediately or store in a
cool place – not the refrigerator – with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the guacamole to keep it from darkening. Some authorities claim that nestling the pit from an avocado into the finished guacamole helps to
keep it from darkening, so you might also try that.

Guacamole Sauce: Simply puréeing the preceding mixture until it is
smooth gives you a good sauce, but you can adjust it further if you like
by adding another 2 tablespoons of lime juice (this tart sauce is good with
oily fish like red snapper) or 1/4 cup of commercial sour cream, which
produces the blander flavor of many restaurant guacamoles.


And what is our standard house guacamole?

Craig Claiborne's Guacamole

Mix well:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped green chilies
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon (or more) chopped
fresh coriander [cilantro]

Make sure to have plenty of tortilla chips on hand, along with a fresh
batch of Margaritas. Good idea to put some mariachi on the stereo, too.
Or maybe Linda Ronstadt's "Canciones de mi Padres". Or "Frenesi."
First and foremost, relax! Enjoy!

The Awesome Avocado

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