For Those About to Guac
Here in central Texas, salsa is the tortilla chip dipper of choice. Occasionally folks will trade up and purchase some chile con queso as well. Guacamole doesn't generally make an appearance till your meal shows up (if at all), and in the company I keep, it gets scraped unceremoniously onto an unused plate and ignored. All to my good fortune though, because I love the stuff.
Guacamole, a Mexican concoction of avocados, onions, lime juice, cilantro, and onions, is fleeting. The flesh of the avocado, once cut into, oxidizes quickly and turns an unappetizing shade of brown. For this reason, I make very small batches and don't purchase the pre-made stuff from the grocery store.
There are two antidotes to help curb the oxidation of your avocado. First, make sure you toss the avocado in citrus – it doesn't take a lot. Second, cover the finished guacamole tightly until you're ready to eat it, even going so far as to press the plastic wrap into the top of the guacamole itself so that the bare minimum of air gets in there to wreak havoc on your pretty green mush.
I'm not going to try to convince you that guacamole is beautiful. In fact, the color kinda reminds me of the sinks and bathtubs in the '70s-era trailer house in which I grew up. But, if cared for properly, it is quite delicious. Its texture is creamy and luscious and with the right additions, its flavor is wonderfully bright and zingy. And really, after you've eaten it and enjoyed it, its appearance starts to seem downright appealing.
The flavor of a good guacamole hinges on having the right amount of citrus in and amongst all the other goodies. To achieve that balance but still have some citrus to coat the avocado as you're cutting it, cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a medium-sized work bowl. Reserve the other half for flavor adjustment later.
Cut open and dice your avocado, taking care to toss the diced flesh in the lime juice occasionally so that all surfaces are coated. (I wish I had taken photos of the avocado deconstruction process, but words will have to do for now).
Using a sharp chef's knife, cut longitudinally around the avocado. Upon the first cut, your knife should sit against the large seed inside. Allow the knife to continue sitting against that seed as you cut your way around the avocado.
Once cut all the way around, take one half in each hand and gently twist them apart. One half should be skin and pulp – the other half should have a fat spherical seed sitting in it.
Here's the scariest part. The seed is much too slippery to just pluck out with your hand. Instead you have to use your knife. With the avocado half in one hand, take your chef's knife and drive the sharp side into the seed. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but please, be careful. Once your knife is embedded in the seed, you should be able to twist the seed from the fruit.
Finally, the easiest way to dice up the fruit is to do it while it's still in its thick, leathery skin. With the avocado half sitting in your hand, skin-side down, run the knife in a cross-hatch pattern through the flesh of the fruit. Do this gently so as not to drive the knife through the skin and into your hand. Once you've diced the first half, use a spoon to scoop the chunks from the skin. You'll find this is actually quite easy. You can generally just run the spoon right along the skin and remove most of the flesh in one fell swoop.
Next add the onion, tomato, and jalapeno and stir and mash the mixture until it's the desired consistency (some people like it really smooth – I like mine to maintain good chunkiness). Add a bit of salt and mix again.
Give the guacamole a taste. Adjust salt and lime juice to achieve the desired flavor.
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