Having lived and worked a less than a dozen miles from the Mexican border for quite a few years, guacamole, or guac as we call it is a staple. Often guac is akin to your mother’s potato salad, it is an heirloom recipe. Because I will bet like me, you have tried so many variations of this simple dish in so many places that you can’t even remember.
From the Cellar
This recipe you and your friends won’t forget. Probably 8 years ago I found myself in arguably the best restaurant in Erie Pennsylvania, on the southern shores of the Great Lake Erie. The kitchen in this rare find of a restaurant in the cellar, different from so many because you can dine with the chef. My friend said, “We have to try the guacamole, it is the best”. sceptically I agreed.
It was called “Kitchen Guac” and the best guacamole I ever had. In a cellar in Erie Pennsylvania, in reality, I was astounded. This prompted a meeting of the chef, and I learned after culinary school he worked in the desert southwest for years, creating a fusion of southwest, and Asian cuisine. It was to Erie he brought his talents and opened this remarkable restaurant. I have added several additions from my travels and guacamole experiences. Taking it out of the basement as it were. Also, if you are not confident on how to pick an avocado I’ll share my method below.
This recipe is amazingly adaptable, one really fun change is don’t add any lime, just pour more pepperoncini juice in it. in a word my wife is not a fan of cilantro or coriander, I have left it out. With this in mind, it is a very good addition if you enjoy it. Make it your own, and please share your adaptations.
- 4 Whole Perfectly Ripe Hass Avocados (most avocados will do, Hass is the king)
- 1 Medium Garlic clove finely chopped
- 5 Small Ripe cherry tomatoes Halved or quartered, depending on size
- 3 to 4 Whole Pickled Pepperoncini or banana peppers chopped With pickling juice that is released
- 1 or 2 Whole Fresh Serrano chilli or Jalapeño Thinly sliced, to the level of spice you want
- 1 Whole Lime Juiced
- 1/4 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
- A small hand full of toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Half the avocados lengthwise just to the seed drawing the knife around them. I really love this next part, brings out my inner child. Spin the top and bottom, the seed will stay in one half. Simple squeeze the skins over a bowl, the avocado flesh will squish out onto the bowl, seed and all. I like rough guacamole northern Mexican style guacamole, not the smooth paste consistency of so many store-bought machine processed guacamoles. It’s a more festive natural texture. Take a fork and give the larger pieces a mash or two but leave it chunky it will get smoother by the end.
Add all the ingredients except the feta and seeds and good pinch of kosher salt. Integrate all of these into the avocado it will become smoother as you do this. When you have a good but chunky mixture add the feta, and integrate it gently leaving large chunks of feta, and not
Give it a Break
Guac is better if it sets up for a few hours letting the flavours meld. If you do rest it in the icebox, add the seeds just before serving or they can get mushy.
What about those huge golf ball sized avocado seeds in there you ask. While in Costa Rica I was told that the seeds of an avocado will keep it from browning as quickly. I don’t know if this is a wife’s tale, but it seems logical. I like to leave 2-4 seeds in a bowl as a backstop for picking up guac on a chip. If you have ever chased guac up the side of a bowl trying to get it on a chip, then you will appreciate the seed as a stop. If you are serving with a spoon, the ball sized seeds just look rustic and add fresh provenance to the dish.
Selecting and Avacado
Avocados are an interesting thing, when they are ripe they are ready to party, but too young they lack depth and flavour. Way too young you can play baseball or cricket with them. Too ripe, they turn brown and look horribly hung over. Buy enough avocados and you tell ripe by sight, with a bit of experience you will be able to tell how many days to ripe. You know what to buy on Wednesday for a Saturday party. The ripe candidate has a dark brown skin it will be lumpy but tight looking, green and fully round skin is under-ripe, approaching black is no Bueno.
If you pick one up and gently squeeze it will be soft, but the skin is full of avocado. There will be little fight left in the flesh, but it’s not mush. Feeling stronger resistance like say squeezing an orange, its underride. If you feel any lose skin or air pockets, it’s over ripe. If you have been around an Avocado tree, you are looking for that fruit that is just about to fall, not laying on the ground. It won’t take long to know your ‘cado.
With this in mind, I like to buy mine 3-4 days in advance, with just a bit of firmness and leave them to ripen in the kitchen. Two reasons, first I cannot guarantee the store will have perfectly ripe avocados when I want them, those luxurious days ended when I moved away from San Diego. Second, I can ensure perfect ripeness. I check them each day, with a gentle squeeze for the purpose of finding perfection. The warmth of the sun ripens faster; the icebox slows them down.