Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Guacamole
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Avocado, Cilantro, Lime
I think with perhaps the exception of a fried egg, guacamole is the dish I’ve made the most in my lifetime. It started as a summer tradition with my mother, but slowly, as I began honing my tricks of the trade in kitchens beyond my mom’s—entertaining friends in high school, college, and beyond—I discovered that mashed-up avocado is a foolproof and simple crowd pleaser. Even at parties where I’ve stuck my nose up at the host’s bland, under-spiced, under-seasoned attempts, the bowl of guac would still be licked clean by the end of the night.
This enthusiasm can lead to a false sense of success, which can lead to quite an ego when it comes to guacamole. Everyone always believes that his recipe is the best, which is quite a thing to claim since the ingredients only vary by one or two changes at most. Some people swear by a hint of cumin, others by lemon over lime, pickled jalapeño rather than fresh, or red onion as opposed to yellow (I’ve begun using shallots).
I’m not going to make any claims here. After all, guacamole is really a matter of personal taste. But over the years I’ve landed on the winning equation for myself. In the early days, I left out the tomatoes since my fruit phobia was in full gear and, well, I thought they were weird. I was converted when I realized how the tomato juices thinned the avocado slightly making it all the more velvety and adding a brightness that just screamed summer.
For me, the key to a great guacamole is in the texture. You don’t want an avocado puree, uniform squares, or unwieldy chunks. My mother’s potato masher always did the job perfectly, but when I moved into my apartment and didn’t have one, I figured out a way to improvise, roughly chopping half, and mushing the rest with the back of a knife.
I make no promises of perfection, but I do invite you to try my version of guacamole, and can more or less guarantee that when you do, the bowl will end up clean. In the comments, we’d love to hear how you make yours!
From my kitchen, where an avocado is at the center of it all, to yours,
Phoebe THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 8-10 servings
2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press, or finely minced with salt
1 ½ limes, juiced
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ small red onion, finely diced
2 medium plum tomatoes, finely chopped
5 pickled jalapeños, minced
1 tsp salt (to taste)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the garlic, the juice of 1 lime, cilantro, red onion, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Stir to combine.
Wait to add the avocado until (at most) an hour or so before serving. Halve the avocados, and with a large kitchen knife, remove the pit by wedging your knife into it and twisting. Reserve 4 pits. Take a large spoon and separate the avocado from its skin. You should have two large halves of clean, skinless avocado.
If you have a masher, add the avocados to the bowl and mash together with the other ingredients. If not, roughly chop half of the avocado and add it to the bowl. With the second half, roughly chop again. With the back of your knife, smash the pieces of avocado against the cutting board until it becomes a coarse mush. This will be a little messy, but the result will be a great texture, smooth but not overly pureed.
Using your knife, scrape all the avocado mush from the cutting board and add to the bowl. Mix together using a fork, and mix with additional large chunks of avocado until you obtain your desired consistency.
Squeeze the remaining half a lime over the top and submerge the four pits just below the surface of the mixture. Cover tightly in plastic wrap. This should prevent the guacamole from browning for at least an hour or two before serving.
Before serving, remove the pits, mix together, and taste for seasoning.