Avoiding ‘Unholy’ Guacamole
I have never liked guacamole prepared by anyone outside of my family. There’s always something unacceptable about it: too smooth, too chunky, metallic tasting because of garlic, ruined by cumin, not enough lime, cilantro, etc … Call it snobbery if you will, but a girl has to hold something sacred; in a country where a single, rock hard, potentially flavorless and never-to-properly-ripen avocado can cost $1 or more, some guacamoles can and should be taken as a personal insult. Guacamole with strawberries? Watermelon? Almonds and almond butter? BACON?! I’m looking at you Rick Bayless! The horror that he and Rachel Ray unleashed upon guacamole cannot be measured.
Thankfully I am not alone in my indignation. Twitter user @GuacamoleU stands as an internet guardian, bringing shame upon those guacamole atrocities befalling poor unsuspecting avocados. The hash tags #UnholyGuacamole and #UnacceptableIngredient sew that scarlet letter on the chests of guacamoles marred with ingredients like sour cream, grapefruit, hard boiled eggs, canned tuna. I do find myself disagreeing mildly with the guardian of the guacamole, first of all on the use of the shorthand guac; it is just too similar to the Spanish slang of guácala [huA-ka-la], a rather visceral expression of disgust. Not something I want to associate with a tasty avocado. There were also a few questionable #HolyGuacamole choices: un-mushed avocados, canned roasted tomatoes, dehydrated crystallized lime juice and Tabasco sauce, all having been accepted into the Guacamole Hall of Fame.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not a guacamole fundamentalist. I accept variations, and as can be easily imagined, there is no standardized guacamole recipe in Mexico and varies by region. Oaxacan guacamole mixteco lacks lime juice. The central Mexican guacamole verde takes the mole (meaning sauce) part of the name more literally, with a mixture of ground cooked tomatillo and avocado making a slightly more fluid guacamole. Perhaps the most commonly accepted guacamole is the one using the colors of the Mexican flag, with tomato, white onion, and cilantro, seasoned with lime juice, salt and chiles, varying from fresh Serranos to roasted chile verde.
The interesting part about a Twitter guacamole watchdog is that it demonstrates both the deep love this nation has developed for the utterly delicious, yet simple and homey guacamole, and it’s complete lack of understanding of it. Remember the great pre-Super Bowl freeze that hit California in 2007? Newscaster’s voices were filled with concern as reports lamented the possible avocado shortage for the big game. Has the Super Bowl been deemed National Guacamole Day? I do have a horrible memory of an encounter with a soupy and browning sour cream-infested #UnholyGuacamole at one of the first Super Bowl parties I attended. My mom and I giggle every time we bring up the topic of guacamole, and both remember the work party she and my dad attended, where a young bachelor shared his “fresh guacamole from last night!” Let’s stop the made hours ahead guacamole madness, the wasting away of avocados and dollars, the needless tinkering with something that isn’t broken, and as @GuacamoleU says, #KeepitHoly.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
3 to 4 large ripe avocados
1 medium sized tomato
1/2 a small white onion
1 Anaheim chile (chile verde)
1 bunch cilantro
1 or 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, or to taste
How to pick ripe avocados: don’t believe those “ripe now” labels at the store. Those avocados are often either still rock hard or far too ripe and mushy to be of any good to you. A ripe avocado should have the same feel as a ripe peach, firm, and with a slight bit of give to it, without any divots.
Roast the chile on the grill or in a broiler to just brown the skin. Once browned on all sides place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel, allowing it to rest for five minutes. While the chile is resting, chop the onion finely, place in a small non-reactive bowl and squeeze the juice of one lime over it. The acid of the lime juice will get some of sharpness out of the onion, but this step may be skipped if the taste of raw onions does not bother you. Finely chop the tomato, allowing any particularly juicy bits of the flesh to drain if necessary. Peel and deseed the chile once it is cool enough to handle, making sure to remove the veins, and chopping finely. Finely chop two to three tablespoons of loosely packed cilantro, including the stems unless they are too thick.
Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit with the heel of a kitchen knife, or by inserting a spoon under it. It is also easily removed by cutting the half with the pit in half again, and slightly twisting them to separate. Save one of the pits for later use. Scoop out the avocado flesh into a bowl with a large spoon, and mash it lightly with a fork until chunks no bigger than a dime remain. A potato masher is an acceptable tool if making a larger quantity of guacamole, but a blender or a food processor are not, as they will make too smooth of a paste.
Drain the lime juice from the onions onto the avocado, add the onions, tomato, cilantro, salt, and chile. Be sure to taste the chile before adding all of it to the guacamole, as they vary greatly in spiciness from one chile to another. Stir until well mixed. Check for seasoning, adding more salt or lime juice if necessary.
Serve with tostadas and enjoy it within an hour. The reserved avocado pit may be placed into the guacamole, as this will keep it from browning too quickly. If guacamole must absolutely be stored, minimize the amount of guacamole that is exposed to the surface. Coat with a thin layer of lime juice, place plastic wrap directly in contact, and hope for the best. Avocados are temperamental, with some browning quickly and others never at all. If your precious guacamole browns, well, you should have eaten it more quickly.