On The Range: Guacamole
On The Range is a weekly exploration of the history and lore of Texas menu items.
"Was there ever a fruit as sensual as the avocado? So rough-hewn, dare-to-touch-me masculine on the outside, so yielding, inviting, soft spring green and feminine inside?...It's no wonder that this perfect fruit begs to be mashed to enhance its melting, natural spreadable quality...Avocado flesh by itself has an unctuous quality and subtle flavor--no need to dilute it."
The above undiluted description of everyone's favorite green dip, not surprisingly, comes to us courtesy of flowery Rick Bayless, author of Mexico: One Plate at a Time. After such a description, it is easy to understand what the late, great Richard Pryor meant when he said, "(After that), I need eight hours sleep. And a bowl of Wheaties."
We can thank our Aztec neighbors for the invention of guacamole (Penthouse Forum-worth descriptions came later), and the term itself is a Nahuatal compound word which literally means "avocado sauce." Ripe avocados are mashed in a molcajete ("mortar and pestle"), then other ingredients such as tomatoes, salt, and spices are added--depending on the recipe used. In any case, lime or lemon juice should always be mixed in for flavor and, more importantly, because the acidity helps retard the enzyme which causes unsightly browning.
In fact, in her book The Cuisines of Mexico, Diana Kennedy notes that guacamole is so delicate that it should be eaten the moment it is made. "There are many suggestions about keeping it--leaving the (avocado) pit in, adding a little lime juice, not adding the salt until last, putting it into an airtight container. They all help a little, but in no time at all that delicate green has aged."
Matt Martinez, that longtime Dallas stalwart of all things Tex and Mex, provided the following guidelines for choosing avocados, which is the first step to making great guacamole: "Select your avocados by pressing on the skin. If it gives a little bit but does not leave a dent, it is okay for slicing or making guacamole. If it leaves a small dent, it is okay for guacamole but too ripe for slicing. A large dent indicates it is overripe."
Like Martinez, annoying Food Network guru Alton Brown uses Haas avocados in his recipe. As presented in the Good Eats episode entitled Dip Madness, Brown's version calls for three avocados, one juiced lime, kosher salt, ground cumin, cayenne, diced onion, two seeded and diced Roma tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and one minced clove of garlic. Of course, each chef adds their own variations. In her book My Mexico, Kennedy lists a style from Guanajuato based on fresh seasonal peaches and seedless grapes--proof that genuine Mexican cuisine can almost always confound and exceed our expectations.
Needless to say, virtually every Mexican restaurant worth its salsa serves some form of guacamole dish. Several--such as, Maximo, Blue Mesa and Cantina Laredo prepare it tableside for proof of freshness.
But what if you want to enjoy fresh, delicious guacamole in the comfort of your own casa? Well, recently Central Market has unveiled their new Guacamole Cart, staffed by a CM chef who prepares fresh guacamole several times a day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 11AM and 7PM. Just steer your cart toward the produce section (for fun keep count of how many carts and people you have to bump out of the way--3 points per cart, up to 10 for hitting a person (depending upon gender, age and state of pregnancy)--and ask for a free sample.
OK, so Central Market's recipe is not quite as lascivious as Rick Bayless suggests, but it is good enough for any dinner party, get-together, or assignation you may be planning in the
And if you rack up more than 100 points, you've earned our respect. Or, as Robin would say, "Holy guacamole, Batman!"
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