by Sara Bonisteel, Epicurious
With the Super Bowl just a week away, it's the perfect time to revisit guacamole. Who better than Rick Bayless to provide advice? The Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco frontman is out with a new cookbook, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks (W.W. Norton & Company, $25), and shared seven guacamole-making tips (plus a couple for a better margarita) last month at a demonstration in New York.
"This book is really about two master classes, and what I always like to do is to teach people how to make something that is very classic and to really learn the basics of it, so that then they can make it their own," Bayless says.
"Once you understand that guacamole isn't following a recipe but understanding a concept of how you put it together, then you can make your own perfect guacamole," he says. "The exact same thing happens when making margaritas, and I think a lot of people are in search of that perfect recipe when really what they need to do is go beyond the recipe to understand how to make it from the ground up."
While guacamole in Mexico is considered a condiment (slurried avocado with a little salt and lime), American-style guacamole--meant for chip dipping--has evolved to be an avocado canvas for all kinds of mixed-in ingredients. The classic version of the latter, Bayless said, is avocado seasoned with salt and lime along with anything that would go into a chopped tomato salsa. "Tomato, onion, green chile, cilantro--just those things," he said. "Some people like to add garlic, some people hate the tomato in there, but you're basically in that area, and your proportions are whatever proportions you like." With that as a guide, here are seven Bayless tips for better guacamole:
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Buy Avocados From a Trusted Source "Buy them at a place that sells a lot of avocados because 1) they will always be ripe there but 2) they will know how to treat them," he says. "When you see people taking big boxes of avocados--and I've seen this at so many grocery stores--and they take the big box of avocados and flip it upside down, those are going to be super bruised. You go to most Mexican markets, and they will actually have beautiful displays, and they'll be very ripe. And they're usually cheaper there."
Don't Go Nuts With Lime Juice "A lot of American cooks get really carried away with lime juice because they think that the lime juice is going to keep the guacamole from turning dark, so they just load it up," Bayless says. "Well, there's nothing that will erase the flavor of an avocado faster than lime juice." Use just enough to give your guacamole the acidity it needs.
Use a Potato Masher But only for the avocado. It "breaks up the pieces more gently and it will give you a chunky guacamole and to me that's what I'm looking for: that beautiful avocado texture, but still some of it mashed, so it's still slightly creamy," he says. After you've mashed your avocados, stir in the rest of the ingredients--tomatoes, onions, and the like--with a spoon.
Rinse Chopped Raw Onions "In Mexico they 'deflame' the onion before they use it raw, and deflaming means you chop it up and rinse it off with water because when you chop an onion you're actually breaking cell walls that bring two compounds together to make a third compound, a sulfurous compound," Bayless says."That's what makes your eyes water, it what gives you onion breath, it's what makes your stomach upset. You can get rid of that stuff just by simply rinsing it off." If you're chopping your onions ahead of time and letting them sit for a while, a sprinkle of vinegar or lime juice will accomplish the same thing.
Keep Your Chiles Hot Don't discard the veins and seeds of the jalapeños and serranos meant for your guacamole. "If you're one of these people that says 'Let's take all the seeds and veins out because we don't want it to be hot,' I say, 'Use a bell pepper because probably that's going to give you about the same kind of flavor as what you've just created now,'" Bayless says.
Let It Rest "I like my guacamole to sit for an hour before I eat it because I think the flavors come together better," he says. "You just have to make sure you put plastic wrap right down on the guacamole and stick it in your refrigerator and keep it cold."
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Serve the Guac on Ice "The one thing that keeps guacamole from turning dark is cold," he says. "Sure pushing all the air out, covering it up with plastic and all that yes that will definitely help, but at a party, if there's a way you can keep it cold--on ice--because guacamole just looks so much better and stays so much longer if you just keep it cold."
His trick? Soak a clean terracotta flower pot big enough to hold your serving bowl in water and then refrigerate it. Before the party, pull it out, and put a chilled reusable ice pack in the pot and then your bowl of guac on top.
Much like guacamole, once you understand the basics of a classic margarita, you've got a skill you can riff on for a lifetime. A margarita is a type of sour cocktail with tequila or mezcal as the alcoholic base, lime juice as the sour element, and orange liqueur as the sweet. "The classic proportions for a sour drink are about an ounce and a half of booze, about an ounce of something sweet, and about 3/4 of an ounce to an ounce of sour," Bayless says.
These two tips will make your margaritas much, much better:
Use Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice Don't be afraid of squeezing a few limes. "If you buy pasteurized lime juice, it's going to have a slightly cooked flavor, a slightly off flavor, it's never going to give you the same thing that fresh squeezed lime juice does," Bayless says. "My preference is yesterday's fresh squeezed lime juice. There is a slight smoothness that comes to lime juice when you refrigerate it for about 24 hours." Just be sure to use it up. "After two days or three days it starts to taste a bit old," he says.
Don't Be Afraid of Salt Like guacamole, margaritas need to be seasoned. If your guests are salt averse, "salt half the rim," Bayless says. "You're getting some of the salt in the drink, but you're also leaving a portion of the rim for people who don't want to consume the salt straight away."
Recipes to try:
* Mezcal Margarita #2
* Guacamole with Bacon, Grilled Ramps (or Green Onions) and Roasted Tomatillos
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by Sara Bonisteel, Epicurious