As time goes by, each of us develops a personality and a reputation. It can be shocking how far apart those two are. For example, I have a refined and superior sense of humor. But no one, not a single soul, in my family thinks so. How I could be associated, by blood or marriage, with so many people who …
There is one thing for which I have earned, fairly, fame. My guacamole. It’s simply the best. For a party with 10 people last week, we were asked to bring dessert, bread, and guacamole. Dessert, an incredible pie by Suzen, will be blogged tomorrow. Today, it’s my guac.
Making guac for that many people actually demands a little thought. You don’t really just scale up. Some changes are needed from my recipe for just two people. How do you do ten people? What changes make sense? And how can you add a party flair to your creation.
First, some rules of thumb:
- You want a half to one avocado per person
- One small to medium lime per avocado
- You want pickled jalapenos, both whole ones and those advertised as sweet or candied slices
- You need one bunch of cilantro for every 4 avocados
- One small red onion for every two avocados
- And, lastly, one peeled clove of garlic for every two avocados
What don’t I use anymore:
- Bottled lemon or lime juice [that’s a pathway to hell!
- Chili powders or cumin
Everything needs to be fresh.
Two final notes, how big should the avocados be? Ideally, the size of medium fist. Not those smallish ones the size of a big lemon, because they are too small and you’ll need a gazillion of them.. And not any of those “big” ones the size of World War II hand grenade. Why not? The flavor and texture do actually resemble a hand grenade. Secondly, how ripe? You want perfectly ripe: not so hard it is a chore to peel nor so soft that you can literally mash the avocado in your hand. In the first case, the avocado is not ripe enough and will lack flavor. In the too soft case, the flavor is just plain yucky.
The party flair? Divide the avocados into two groups. The first ones you mash along with the onion and garlic. The holdbacks you simply slice and stir in to get a lovely chunky texture.
Normally I only used candied jalapeno slices. For this volume, though, I do like a little extra heat. So, I call for using regular pickled jalapenos. That give you spark and heat. If you used, for example, just cumin powder you would get a much more subdued flavor with afternotes that I feel detract and distract from the lovely avocados.
Crunchy Guacamole for Ten
Yield: adequate for 8-12 people
- 3 peeled garlic cloves
- 6 limes
- 3 whole pickled jalapenos + the juice in the jar
- ¾ cup of pickled sweet or candied jalapeno slices [look in a Mexican market or on line] + the juice in the jar
- 2 small red onions
- 6 fist-sized avocados at peak ripeness
- Salt to taste
- 2 bunches of cilantro
Finely dice the garlic cloves and place in the bottom of metal bowl. Juice one lime and put the juice over the garlic. Set aside.
Take the whole jalapenos and slice sideways. Scrape away the seeds if you wish or keep the seeds if you are brave, lazy or both. Repeat with the sweetened slices. Add the two to the garlic. Put about ½ cup of liquid from the two jalapeno jars into the bowl. You can mix and match from the jars. I prefer using the thicker, more interesting juice that comes from the sweetened jalapenos.
Carefully dice the onion and add to the bowl. Juice two more limes and add to the bowl.
Using a pastry cutter, carefully mash up the garlic, jalapeno slices and onion. You are not seeking to create anything like a uniform mixture. You are just cutting through the ingredients to release and mix flavors.
Take four of avocados. One at a time, take off the peel and halve them. Remove the stone, saving at least one stone to put on top of the guac to prevent browning — yes, it really works. Put each of the two avocado halves on a cutting board, round side up. Using a very sharp knife, make lengthwise slices ¼ inch apart. Repeat sideways so you have a checkerboard pattern of cuts. Transfer the avocado to the bowl and immediately stir into the mixture. You want it covered with fluid to prevent that ugly browning.
Repeat with the three other avocados. Now, take that pastry cutter and work around in the bowl mashing the avocado. All the ¼ by ¼ inch chunks from your cutting should be gone.
Take the last two avocadoes, again halve them, cut them and add them to the bowl. Do not mash. Simply stir to mix.
Add salt to taste. More lime juice to taste. More jalapeno pickling juice to taste. You have great power here. Just remember, you cannot un-juice.
Finally, take one bunch of cilantro — about 1 cup in volume — and dice both leaves and stems. Add to the bowl and stir to mix. Taste and, if you desire, add more cilantro.
On Saturday Suzen informed me that by using 2 full bunches of cilantro, I had overdone it. Again. It’s a matter of personal preference and the flavor intensity of the cilantro. It’s best to confirm with our spouse before adding too much. Or so I was told.
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.0, 1/80th and 1/60th second at ISO 2500 and 2000 respectively [no flash]
If I say Chicago, what food snaps into your mind. Pizza? Dogs? Cabbage rendered in a thousand different ways? That’s a dangerous topic to ask a person from New York, the home of true pizza and the world’s best hot dogs. And, and, which city has won more World Series?
Back to food. Chicago? I think Mexican. And largely because of one man: Rick Bayless. Frontera Grill is his flagship Chicago restaurant, a site that for over 20 years has served delicious, ethnically authentic, outstanding food. Rick has many books but this one, Frontera, packs in 50 recipes just from that singular restaurant. Over all those years, a lot of avocados have arrived at the back door of Frontera. A lot of happy people have left hours later through the front door, the tang of guacamole on their tongue, the vapors of margarita sublime in their brains.
Wonderful variations for guac and margaritas — plus some snacks — are presented here, reflecting years of trial, experimentation and ultimately perfection.
Take this guacamole. It has cheese. Like goat cheese. Would you have thought of that? I would not, but I do love the taste. Goat cheese adds both its distinctive flavor and mouth feel. Rick says this dish is substantial, and prefers it as side to shrimp, chicken, fish or pork. I put a chip in the picture because I could never make a batch of guac and not at least taste test. In this particular case, Suzen and I taste tested the whole bowl.
What did we do then? Why we dipped into our emergency supply of ripe avocados. You have one of those, right?
Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole
Yield: 4 cups
- ½ medium white onion, sliced crosswise into 3 rounds
- A little olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 small ear of fresh corn, husked and cleaned of silk
- 1 fresh poblano chile
- 3 ripe medium-large avocados
- ¼ cup crumbled Mexican fresh cheese or other fresh cheese, like salted pressed farmer’s cheese or goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1-2 tablespoons epazote [or cilantro]
Heat a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until medium-hot and the coals are covered with gray ash. Lightly brush both sides of the onion slices with oil, sprinkle with salt and lay on the grill.
Oil the corn and lay it beside the onion, along with the poblano (no oil needed on it). When the onion slices are browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes, flip them and grill the other side. Turn the corn regularly until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Roast the poblano for 5 to 7 minutes, turning it until evenly blackened. Let the roasted vegetables cool.
Chop the onion into ¼-inch pieces. Cut the kernels from the corn (you need about ¾ of a cup). Rub the blackened skin off the poblano, pull out and discard the stem and seed pod, tear the chile open and briefly rinse to remove stray seeds and bits of blackened skin. Cut into ¼-inch pieces.
Cut the avocados in half, running a knife around the pit from top to bottom and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to release the pit from one side of each avocado. Remove the pit, then scoop the flesh from 1 avocado in a large bowl. Scoop the flesh from the other 2 avocados onto a cutting board and cut them into ½-inch pieces. With an old-fashioned potato masher, a large fork on the back of a large spoon, thoroughly mash the avocado this is in the bowl.
Scoop the diced avocado into the bowl, along with the grilled onion, corn, poblano and 2 tablespoons of the fresh cheese. Sprinkle with the lime juice and epazote [or cilantro], then gently stir the mixture to distribute everything evenly. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.
When you are ready to serve, scoop, the guacamole into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Source: Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.7, 1/100 second at ISO 3200 [no flash]