About the time that I was old enough to start going to dinners at friends’ houses and was old enough to start asking what I should bring to said dinners, I started to get good at making a few key dishes that I could contribute to the party and be reliably duplicated. Though now I’m much more confident navigating the ins and outs of hosting a full meal, or making something new and delicious to fit within a specific theme, at least initially I was most comfortable sticking to a few “signature dishes” that I could be counted on to nail every time. The first to reach mastery status was my key lime pie, which quickly became an oft requested favorite. The second followed soon after, and that was guacamole.
Here’s a dirty little secret about my very first attempt at guacamole. The first time I was asked to make guac from scratch, I mashed up a couple avocados, poured a half of a jar of Tostitos salsa into them, mixed it all together, and served it as “homemade.” My friends LOVED it, and I, embarrassed at how I had actually concocted it, referred only to “my secret ingredient” when asked what made it so good. I probably should have just made guacamole like that forever, but at some point, a friend asked me to show them how I made my guacamole, and then I was stuck! As a result, I set out to figure out how to make amazing guac “for real, and reinvented my guacamole making wheel to something that looked a little bit more like legitimate culinary effort.
Here’s the thing about guacamole, it’s really really easy, but everyone likes it a little bit different. Plus, there are actually lots of things that you can add to guacamole that make it even more delicious. Onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, green pepper, cilantro, cheese, beans…if you can put it in a taco, you can pretty much put it in guacamole and it will be delicious. Have you ever put bacon in guacamole? Also delicious! My “perfect” guacamole became really more of a guacamole base into which you could add a great number of delicious extras, or which you could eat all by itself on some good, salty chips or on top of tacos. Make it as is, or modify to your tastes with any number of the suggested variations!
4 ripe avocados
1 medium-sized shallot
3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch cilantro
To make it:
- Carefully cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Score the avocado and scoop the fruit into a medium bowl. FYI: There’s an actual health insurance code for “avocado hand,” which is the injury that most often occurs when you stab your hand by piercing through the avocado too forcefully…so cut carefully.
- Finely dice the shallot. Pro tip: Onion works too, but seeing as you can replace onions for shallots in just about any recipe, AND the fact that shallot rings are much smaller than the onion and therefore easier to dice finely, AND the fact that the flavor of the shallot isn’t quite as overpowering as onion if you add a smidge too much, I’d recommend shallot. They’ll still make you cry thought
- Peel and press (or struggle and mince) three cloves of garlic. We know that I generally prefer to struggle with my garlic cloves, but I will admit that I pressed them this time because if you press them over the bowl, you get a little garlic juice in the process that can really only help your flavors!
- Mix avocados, shallot, and garlic together mashing the avocado to your desired consistency. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. A word about paprika: if you’re not cooking with paprika, why not? Not as biting as ground pepper, not as hot and overpowering and red pepper flakes, paprika can raise the game of just about any dish. I put it in anything from chilli to eggs. Spanish style smoked paprika is almost unbeatable; however, having been given a paprika variety pack for Christmas, the Hungarian style sweet paprika in this trial run was an exceptional choice as well.
- If you’re a person who thinks cilantro tastes like soap…I will never understand your taste buds, but you can probably skip this step. Or, satisfy your cilantro loving guests, and throw it in any way. If you’re adding it, chop the cilantro now and add it to your avocado mash!
- Taste and adjust. After everything is in the mix, taste and adjust based on flavor preferences. Too much cilantro and/or shallot can be balanced out with some lemon or lime juice. (Just take it easy…drops at a time!) Don’t over salt! Remember that chips have salt in their own right that will enhance the flavor. Balance garlic with pepper or vice versa if needed.
I’ll eat it just like that without complaint, but with your guac base complete, now is your chance to get creative and crazy. Add chopped tomatoes for a fresh, pico de gallo inspired flavor. Try bacon or cheese if you’re feeling a little non-traditional. Add black olives if you want to completely destroy it (just my own two cents!) or if you want a pop of flavor and texture variation. But whatever you do, don’t just add Tostitos salsa to mashed avocados.
Or…you know…also be assured that in a pinch, that will absolutely work!