Is your guacamole teeming with garlic, tomato, and the works? Hang on there, buddy! Although avocado is delicious nearly any way you prepare it, there’s a faster road to top-notch guac.
Talk to any chef about the best lessons they’ve learned over the course of their careers, and chances are the word “editing” will make a cameo. Professionals learn that sometimes dialing down the number of ingredients to let the star player shine is the path to better food.
It’s a lesson we can apply to that ubiquitous Cinco de Mayo player—guacamole. Although the classic dip has many wonderful incarnations, at its best, it showcases avocado’s sultry texture and buttery flavor, has a fresh kick from cilantro, a brightness from lime, and a slight fiery edge from chile.
What it’s not is watery, or garlicky, or laced with tomatoes.
These are fighting words, I realize. And I love both garlic and in-season tomatoes. But where I am in the northeast we’re eons away from tomato season, and I think guacamole doesn’t need to be like a salsa. (You have salsa for that!) Skip garlic and tomatoes, and you’ll be less likely to have fiery raw garlic or a watery, sad texture in the finished guac.
New York chef Roberto Santibañez of Fonda introduced me to my favorite guacamole recipe, which his staffers make in molcajetes (stone bowls) just before serving. When building this recipe, note that—although I love a simple blender recipe—this isn’t the place for that. You want to mash white onion with salt and jalapeño first, which will turn it into a paste that will evenly coat the avocado pieces, ensuring salty, spicy bites all around.
Go light, as Santibañez’s co-author JJ Goode suggests, on lime, but don’t be afraid of a bit of salt, which is key to really tasting that avocado. And be careful not to over-mash the finished product; spying little pieces of avocado on a tortilla chip is the culinary equivalent to seeing a whole scallop in your bowl of fish chowder (aka awesome). And no need to restrict your guac intake (guactake?) to Cinco de Mayo, either, because Mexican food is fabulous year-round. Here’s that recipe.
By Roberto Santibañez, from Truly Mexican
Makes about 1 3/4 cups (this recipe can easily be doubled or quadrupled)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, including seeds, or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
- 1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
- A squeeze of lime, if desired
1. Mash the onion, chile, salt (the coarseness of kosher salt helps you make the paste), and half of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife or a fork, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.
2. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with a spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well, then add the rest of the cilantro and mash coarsely with a pestle or a fork. Season to taste with lime juice (if you'd like) and additional chile and salt.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.