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It's pretty hard to make a bad guacamole. Unless you use an unyielding avocado or a colorless tomato, people will always like you more if you bring guacamole to the party.
By willingly tasting as you go (and obviously, that is what you will be doing), there are endless ways to land on your own best combination of tang, salt, and spice.
But who says you can't learn to make an even better one? Can you be even more popular at the party? No one, and yes.
The guacamole recipes in life tend to fall into two categories:
The Chunk: You chop up onion, chile, cilantro, maybe garlic, maybe tomato, then stir the avocado all around it, so you stumble on crunches of sweet or hot as you go. It's a bit like you've hidden pico de gallo in your otherwise plain avocado.
The Blend (a.k.a. The Tableside): You start by pummeling your flavorful ingredients (in a molcajete, if you're really serious), then grind the avocado in too. Everything usually becomes one creamy, well-blended mass. Then chips go in it.
Both are good; both disappear quickly. I'm still going to tell you about a third method, one that I heard about from both Food52er LLStone and Caitlin Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee. Freeman called it "the best guacamole I’ve had in my life (from my hands or the hands of any other)." It skates between The Chunk and The Blend, and it might change the way you think about guacamole.
The technique comes from Roberto Santibañez' Truly Mexican, a contender for our 2012 Piglet trophy. (Just so you know, there are 75 pages of salsas and guacamoles in there, all of them bookmark-worthy.)
It's in his Classic Guacamole that Santibañez takes the traditional ideal for guacamole from his native Mexico and defines it for modern American kitchens, using everyday tools. Amanda's pretty, but rather impractical, mortar and pestle might not look like your everyday tools—don't worry, you have other options.
What Santibañez wants cooks to realize, he told me, is this: "There is a very important textural thing to guacamole—we never really mush up the avocado. You want to feel everything."
In his recipe, the ingredients are what you'd expect; he just handles them differently. With a mortar and pestle, or the side of a big knife, or even a fork, he first pulverizes chile, onion, cilantro, and salt into a bright green slurry, then gently folds in cubed avocado.
He crushes only enough of the avocado to warrant it consideration as a dip rather than a salad, but leaves the rest of the cubes intact, bathing them in the vividly flavored chile sauce, "a bit like salad properly dressed in vinaigrette," he writes.
More chopped cilantro and (optional) lime juice finish it off, and you have a dip that ignites as it first hits your tongue, then cools as you break through each lump of clean, creamy avocado. The star gets to shine alone, but still party with its friends.
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
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."