In How Do You Take Yours?, The Takeout solicits staff and outside expertise for secret tips on improving one dish.
If we could offer one culinary tip ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl, it’s that premade supermarket guacamole is almost always a terrible idea. Why deprive yourself the pleasures of scooping the creamy avocado flesh from its skin, folding it in with chiles and limes, and mashing it with a fork? It tastes better, anyway.
All our chef experts this week concur. Most make a living by making guacamole professionally, so heed their advice, and share your own tips in the comment section below. (Watch chef Rick Bayless teach us how to master guacamole on A.V. Club Live.)
Andres Padilla, chef of Topolobampo in Chicago
We serve our guacamole with chips, but it doesn’t have to be tortilla. A classic chicharron would make a great vessel—and you can also crumble chicharron and make it a crispy, crunchy topping.
I love a good “trash can guacamole,” putting everything under the sun. I love putting grilled ramps and crispy bacon. You can always substitute char-grilled cebollitas, the knob onions. You can char-grill eggplants and add it to your guacamole. You can even add cheese: queso añejo, queso fresco, even play with black pepper and pecorino, parmesan, romano. For the crunchy elements, a toasted nut like pecans or walnuts are great. We’ve even done guacamole with brown butter and king crab. The sky’s really the limit.
Another one of my absolute favorites is adding habaneros and strawberries. What we do is take charred habaneros, puree it with garlic and lime juice. Fold a little into the avocado mash, and you get this beautiful floral aroma. Then we add diced strawberries and garnish with queso fresco.
Brian Enyart, chef of Dos Urban Cantina in Chicago
Mash up your avocados less when you’re making guacamole. The more you mash, the denser it actually becomes. I like adding diced tomatillos to it—helps with the acidity and brightens things up. Serranos for sure, too. I don’t think people add enough lime juice to their guacamole. If you feel your guac tastes flat, usually it has to do with lime juice and salt. Salt takes a long time to absorb because of the amount of fat in the avocado. So when you make it, taste it, put it in the fridge for half an hour, then taste it again. (As for refrigerating guacamole, make sure the plastic wrap is flush with the guac and not just wrapped around the container.) One more tip: toasted, crushed pumpkin seeds. It adds a depth of flavor and savory notes.
Dakota Weiss, chef and partner of Sweetfin Poké and Estrella in Los Angeles
1. Make sure you are using a good avocado. The shell should be dark green to black and not mushy. If you grab it and the shell gives in too much, it’s best to say that the avocado is going to be bruised and black on the inside. Hass tends to be the best avocado to use.
2. Don’t forget about your acid and seasoning. Lime juice, lemon juice, and even grapefruit juice are a must for this dip. The avocados are so creamy and fatty that the citrus kick really cuts through that layer and brings out the amazing flavor of the avocado.
3. Don’t forget the salt! So major! You don’t want the dip to be salty by no means, but adding salt will help accentuate the flavors in your guacamole.
4. If you want to make your guac ahead of time, you can cover the top layer with a paper towel and squeeze the juice of a lemon or lime over the paper towel and make sure that it is touching the whole surface area. When you pull it off, just give it a quick stir to mix in that citrus layer.
Eddie Hernandez, chef of Taqueria Del Sol in Atlanta
The best thing to do for guacamole is to not puree it, or it’ll lose some of the flavor. I like to add deep-fried jalapeños, diced and fried in oil to release the full flavors, then mixed into the guac.
Kevin Chojnowski, chef of The Standard Grill in New York City
When it comes to guacamole, I’m a purist. Only four ingredients: perfectly ripe Hass avocado, fresh lime juice, cilantro, and sea salt. But the things I love to eat with guacamole are foods that are spicy and smoky.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll be making fully loaded mole black bean nachos and serving them with fresh guacamole. I slow-cook black beans and season them with a mole spice blend. I then pile up tortilla chips with the mole black beans and sharp cheddar, then bake it until golden and melty. They’re topped off with sour cream, pickled chilies, scallion, and guacamole.
David Gremmels, head cheese maker of Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon
My recipe for blue cheese guacamole:
1. Scoop out flesh from three avocados.
2. Into the avocados, add 1/2 cup of chopped jalapeño peppers with 1 tablespoon of pepper’s liquid. Stir in 8 ounces of fromage blanc (substitute crème fraîche or Greek yogurt), and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
3. Fold in 3.5 ounces of blue cheese. Sprinkle smoked paprika on top to serve.
Sylvia Casares, chef/owner of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston and author of The Enchilada Queen Cookbook.
Picamole is one of my signature recipes. I call it this because it is a hybrid pico de gallo and guacamole. The ingredients for pico de gallo combine with chunks of avocado to produce picamole. My customers love it as a dip for chips, and you can use it to top tacos, fajitas, enchiladas—anything! Precisely cut tomato, onion, and avocado give this dish its somewhat deconstructed appearance, with distinct but well-balanced flavors.
1 cup tomato, chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
1 (3-inch long) jalapeño, minced (seeded, if desired, to lessen the heat), about 1⁄8 cup
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes, about 2 1/2 cups
1. Place the chopped tomato in a strainer, rinse, and drain.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the drained tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt. Using a rubber spatula, combine gently.
3. Gently fold in the avocados with the rubber spatula.
4. Tightly cover the picamole with plastic wrap directly on the surface to make it airtight. The picamole may be refrigerated a couple of hours before serving. Do not freeze.