I’ve been making guacamole for years. And over the years, I’ve probably made it 500 different ways. Cumin. No cumin. Lots of garlic. No garlic. Tomatoes. No tomatoes. And let’s face it, no matter what you do . . . it’s usually pretty good and is inhaled by your family and friends within minutes. However, whenever I order guacamole at a restaurant, I am continually disappointed. I have high expectations of good restaurants that they should produce a better quality guacamole. But instead, they tend to overcomplicate it, whip it or use too much seasoning that hides the flavor of the avocado.
One thing I have determined is the best guacamole is one that allows the avocado to retain some of it’s original density and chunky texture instead of being mashed until it’s pulverized into a dip. I’ve also become a purist who believes really good and flavorful guacamole doesn’t need a bunch of seasonings or to be overcomplicated. Like a lot of good food . . it should be simple, with just a few ingredients and each ingredient should shine and be tasted instead of masked. And . . . don’t plan on having any leftovers! Don’t worry about it turning brown or adding lemon juice or lime juice or leaving the avocado pit in the bowl… or what it’s like the next day. Guacamole should be made and served immediately. And trust me, when it’s good, you won’t have any left over.
If you intend to make guacamole or any kind of Mexican food on a regular basis, then one of the tools you should really have is a traditional Molcajete or mortar and pestle. Many people confuse a Molcajete with the marble mortar and pestles which are more common in American culinary stores.
Originally designed by the Aztecs, a real molcajete is round and sits on three legs, and is made from black basalt, a volcanic rock and can be seasoned and enhance food flavor much like a wok or a cast iron skillet (another tool that is good to have in your kitchen) Look for the ones that are very dark in color and have the raw texture of volcanic rock versus a smooth marble. And the real ones are very heavy! This tool is really essential to good Mexican cooking or any cooking really. You can grind spices or make salsas and chile pastes. And it should be used as a serving dish for salsas and guacamole.
You can find these on line and at Williams-Sonoma. You can certainly make guacamole without it and I know you’re thinking “Oh Laura, enough already. . . can’t I just use a fork and bowl?” Yes, you can . . . and a wooden bowl is best. . . but it just isn’t as good or authentic. You will taste the difference and it’s more fun to use a molcajete. When guests arrive, whip out the molcajete and make it in front of them. They’ll be curious and intrigued.
When you first buy a molcajete, it needs to be properly seasoned. This process takes time and patience, but it’s well worth the effort. There are many opinions on how to season it, but I’ll tell you what I did. When you first buy the molcajete, the interior surface will be rough and gritty. The goal is to smooth the interior surface and remove any residual “grit” or lava rock “dust” and also season it for flavor. When I first received mine (a gift from my husband), I took some slightly damp white rice and using the pestle, I ground the rice until it was totally milled. The color of the rice will turn a little grey from the stone. You want to keep doing this with the rice until the color of the rice remains white. I’ll warn you, this takes some elbow grease and may take many days. I did it once a day for about a week. After all it only takes a few minutes investment per day. The interior of mine isn’t quite smooth yet, but it’s getting there. It takes a lot of use to really get it smooth. Some websites say to mash garlic in the molcajete and leave it overnight. I didn’t do this (perhaps I should have), but I believe just using it a lot for your spices, salsas and guac will season it overtime.
Now to the guacamole. Look for good quality Haas avocados. I just enjoyed the most amazing avocados from California Avocados Direct that were delivered right to my front door. Make sure they are ripe but still firm. You don’t want the avocado meat to be mushy. Also look for vine ripened tomatoes (again, organic is always best) that will dice well and retain their firmness. I’ve used romas, vine tomatoes and even Heirlooms. Buy whatever looks best and in season. If you want to add some pretty color, buy a yellow and red heirloom and dice.
The flavor of this recipe comes from making a paste in the molcajete that will be used to add back to the avocado. It’s my belief that this step is the ultimate trick to great guacamole. Instead of blending and mashing all ingredients together, use the molcajete to create a flavor packed paste that will allow the avocado to remain firm and chunky but have great flavor.
The recipe follows, but don’t get too caught up on the quantity of ingredients. Like all good cooking, just adjust it to your taste and I’m sure you’ll be very happy with the outcome.
Ingredients for the pepper paste:
- 2 TBSP finely chopped white onion
- 3 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 TBSP chopped jalapeno pepper
- 1 TBSP chopped serrano pepper (*optional)
- 1 TBSP chopped garlic
- 1 tsp chopped chipotle pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
Remaining guacamole ingredients:
- 4 ripe Haas avocados (but should still be firm to the touch)
- 5 TBSP carefully diced tomato (*optional)
- 5 TBSP chopped cilantro (more or less per your taste)
- 2 TBSP chopped white onion
- Sea salt
To make the pepper paste, place onion, cilantro, jalapeno, serrano and chipotle pepper and grind them in the molcajete until all ingredients are finely ground into a paste. If you didn’t buy the molcajete (tisk.. tisk…) then you can use a big bowl and fork – but don’t use a food processor because you don’t want to puree the ingredients.
Take each avocado and cut in half, lengthwise. Twist the halves to separate and delicately remove the pit using a knife. You want to keep as much of the meat in tact as possible. Then cut avocado into cube size pieces. Make 4 slices then slice again in the opposite direction to create the cubes before removing from the skins. Use a spoon to scoop out the cut avocado cubes into the molcajete containing the pepper paste.
Using a spoon, very gently fold the paste into the avocado. Don’t mash the avocado in. Again, you want to maintain the large cubed chunks as much as possible. Some will get a little mashed, but that’s ok as long as it’s still mostly cubed. Then gently add chopped tomato, onion and cilantro. Serve immediately!