Cast Iron Pans Cast iron pan owners swear by them for their even dispersal of heat and non stick nature. However, iron is not as happy go lucky as other metals. Initially, the pan must be seasoned with vegetable oil in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least an hour. Each time you heat the pan with oil, it will season till it obtains a beautiful dark color. Don't wash off the black patina thinking it is dirty. In fact, never use soap or scour the pan or you will remove the essence of the pan. Dry your iron pan on the stove with medium heat but watch it so it doesn't burn.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
I started preparing guacamole when I was 18 years old. My recipe is based on ingredients my mother, Gretchen Del Rio, taught me how to combine so eloquently. I love guacamole so much, it has become my signature dish. Over the years I have made a great number of changes to the original recipe but two ingredients remain the secrets to this unbelievably good guacamole recipe, which I'll talk about later. If you try any recipe from my blog, make it this special guacamole concoction I have been perfecting for three decades.
The first step is picking out the perfect avocados. This is a lot harder than it sounds. So many times I have gotten home and cut open, what I thought was a beautiful avocado, and been greeted with a brown and uninviting overripe or bruised avocado. While nobody has xray vision, there are a few things you can look for to increase your chances of opening up a deliciously ripe avocado.
Picking the Perfect Avocado:
Pick a store that has good produce. I buy avocados from Stater Bros and Costco. Being from California means I get great avocados all the time but especially during the summer when local avocados are available.
Buy during the peak season of avocados, although imports make them available year round in most areas these days.
Ripe avocados have an almost black color. If you buy them green, you can put them in a closed paper bag for a few days to ripen them.
Avoid avocados with large dents which could mean extensive bruising.
Gently squeeze the avocado and it should have a slight give but not a mushy feeling. It takes practice but I can pick perfect avocados almost every time.
Only buy Hass avocados, they simply have the best flavor. They are easily recognizable with their bumpy exterior.
Some people say you can remove the remaining stem or cap and determine ripeness but I never use this method. Just give a good squeeze.
Move to California. Haha, just kidding but it couldn't hurt lol.
An important step is to not mash the avocados so much that they become a monotone of creamy sameness. If you haven't had chunky guacamole, it will change your life. So many restaurants and amateur chefs over mix guacamole to the consistency of sour cream. Don't get me wrong, I like creamy avocados. I just love getting a solid piece of avocado in with the creamy part. It's all about a variety in the consistency.
All you have to do is scoop the avocado out of the shell using a spoon. It's pretty easy to extract most of the avocado in one or two steps. Make sure to scrape all the green goodness from the inner wall of the shell so you have a creamy portion to the guacamole. When mixing the avocado with the rest of the ingredients, the chunks will break apart into smaller pieces so just leave it whole at the beginning.
The rest of the ingredients can be added in any order. Pay close attention to the shredding of the onion as it allows the onion juices to escape better. You can chop up some additional onions if you like but I kinda like just the shredded (and I'm a big raw onion fan). Make sure you macerate the garlic with a press instead of just chopping it. Again, the juices are extracted for a better taste experience. I also like to pour the lemon juice over the onions and garlic cause it breaks down and melds the ingredients faster.
Please, please, please remove the stems from your cilantro. It doesn't take that long and creates a better mouth feel. I can remember eating at a chinese restaurant that left so many stems in the food I never went back. If you haven't tasted a stem, it really doesn't taste like much, so why leave it? I might even say the stems taste bitter.
I have a lot of important steps to making guacamole, as you can see, but one I feel can easily get overlooked. I always add my tomatoes at the end of the process because they tend to mellow out the flavor. I can always add more lemon juice or salt but I can't remove it. Think of tomatoes as my safety net since I really don't measure ingredients. Even though I provide a recipe below, I prefer my guacamole to be a little different each time so I just throw in approximate amounts.
Back to the tomatoes. I like to use Roma tomatoes and remove the seeds so I don't introduce a lot of liquid to my guacamole. It's quite simple. Just cut the tomato in quarters and cut out the flesh close to the wall of the tomato. This will reveal the seeds so you can scrape them away and all that extra liquid that can liquify your guacamole.
Picking the chips is as important as any other step. Get a chip that is strong enough to dig through the guacamole but crispy and greasy enough to add depth to the dipping experience. My favorite chip right now is the Tostitos Cantina (Traditional) style right now.
As eluded to at the beginning of this blog, there are two secret ingredients. The first is chili powder. Avocados and chili powder are a match made in heaven, like peanut butter and jelly or basil and tomato. Just the right amount of chili powder adds a distinct flavor to the guacamole that you will wonder how you ever lived without it.
The second secret ingredient will confuse you at first but it's so crucial I challenge you to make this recipe without it. Yes, the ingredient is mayonnaise. Just a touch transforms the taste of the guacamole. And don't use fake mayonnaise. Get get some Best Foods or Hellmann's mayonnaise. If you don't like mayonnaise, get over it. It really is one of the most important ingredients that will make this guacamole stand out.
I like to eat guacamole soon after it's made. You can put it in the fridge for a couple hours so you get ready for your party and the flavors can meld but I would never make it the night before. It's not just about it turning brown, something happens to avocados when it is mixed with other ingredients. If you leave it too long it just doesn't taste right.
Remove Fruit From Avocados
Carefully scoop out the fruit from the avocado, careful to keep as many whole pieces as possible in order to facilitate chunky guacamole.
Add the Rest of the Ingredients
Add all ingredients except the tomatoes. Reserve some of the cilantro and tomatoes for garnishing the finished product. Mix well but try to not mush all the avocado pieces. Increase the amount of any ingredient you favor like lemon juice, chili powder or garlic.
Once you have tested the guacamole for salt and flavor, add the tomatoes and mix carefully.
Scoop into a nice bowl and garnish with leftover tomatoes and cilantro. Chill up to 6 hours or serve immediately.