Posted On: 06/01/2016
Delicious as a chip dip and decadent as a sandwich spread, guacamole wins the prize for most versatile summer snack. While almost any market carries the green goddess, nothing beats the taste of fresh homemade. When a dish is this simple, every step counts, so we chatted with local experts to make the ultimate guacamole from scratch. Read on to learn how to pick the perfect avocados, why a jalapeno makes you cry, and which chip is a worthy vehicle for the greatest guac around.
Great guacamole begins with perfectly ripe avocados. Skip the ones that are cracked, dented or mushy. Husband and wife team Salvador and Adela Esparza of Lily’s Mexican Restaurant select avocados that give ever so slightly when pressed. When buying in advance, Adela Esparza suggested choosing hard avocados and letting them ripen on the counter until they soften.
We tested batches with kosher, pink Himalayan and table salt with Público chef de cuisine Brad Bardon. Our verdict: The type of salt doesn’t affect the taste nearly as much as the quantity, so use whichever salt you have on hand, but just a little. “You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out,” Bardon said. Cumin adds unexpected earthy notes that offset the sharpness of the raw onions.
Contrary to popular belief, the jalapeno’s seeds aren’t responsible for its spicy heat. That comes from capsaicin, a kicky chemical compound concentrated in the pepper’s pith and ribs. For less heat, simply trim the white parts away from the pepper before adding it to your guacamole.
Leaves and stems are equally tasty, so there’s no need to painstakingly remove the leaves one by one – simply chop the whole bunch. The cilantro-averse, for whom the herb tastes overwhelmingly soapy, can substitute a teaspoon of ground coriander, which is the cilantro seed. It adds a deeper, more savory flavor than the fresh green plant.
Tomato adds a beautiful contrasting color and prevents the texture of your guacamole from getting gummy. Just make sure the tomato is fresh and flavorful and scoop out the seeds before you dice to prevent the dish from becoming watery.
Salvador Esparza sprinkles grated white cotija cheese as a garnish on Lily’s guacamole. “Use just a little, so that it looks nice but doesn’t overwhelm the guacamole,” instructed Esparza. He prefers cotija because it’s a mild Mexican cheese, similar to Parmesan, but not as salty. La Chona cotija Mexican style grated cheese, $3 for 8 oz. Supermercado el Torito, 2753 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314.771.8648
Instead of blending it into a smooth paste, Bardon suggested keeping the guacamole chunky by lightly chopping the avocados with the edge of a metal spoon. “I think it’s better to have a little variance,” Bardon said. “Pockets of different flavors and texture break things up.” We combined our ingredients with a few presses of a wavy potato masher for the same effect. The open-style masher mixes the ingredients while preserving precious chunks of avocado.
For the best guacamole texture, chunk it up with Best Manufacturer’s 11-inch stainless professional masher. $17. Kitchen Conservatory, 8021 Clayton Road, Clayton, 314.862.2665, kitchenconservatory.com
A molcajete is the star of restaurant tableside guacamole presentations, but this stone mortar and pestle will pulverize your avocados if you’re not careful. Use a molcajete for serving, not smashing. $19. Carniceria Latino Americana, 2800 Cherokee St.,
St. Louis, 314.773.1707
If you’re looking for the perfect complement, stay away from chips that are overwhelmingly salty (We’re looking at you, Tostitos.) or full of competing flavors, like spicy black bean tortilla chips. Instead, choose an authentic chip that’s packed with fresh corn flavor and light on oil and salt like El Milagro Mexican kitchen style Totopos chips. $3. Supermercado el Torito, 2753 Cherokee St.,
St. Louis, 314.771.8648
The Ultimate Guacamole
2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
2 heaping Tbsp. diced white onion
½ cup diced fresh tomato, seeded
1 Tbsp. finely diced jalapeno, seeded
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
¼ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. grated cotija cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving
• Spoon the avocado flesh from the skins and place it in a bowl. Lightly chop the avocado with the edge of the spoon, or press it with a potato masher. The avocado should still be chunky.
• Add the onion, tomato, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, salt and cumin to the avocado. Stir gently until just combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer guacamole to a molcajete or other serving dish. Sprinkle with cotija and serve with chips.
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