The schools were closing early due to the 100 degree heat, and a sweet little bag of key limes became the inspiration for dinner. Steak fajitas with guacamole, rice and beans seemed the perfect dinner for the south of the border-type heat we were experiencing.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but for a brief period of time I worked in the garde manger station of David Burke’s now-defunct Park Avenue Café . We were responsible for cold appetizer preparation, and for a few hot summer days, this included a special of guacamole.
A quick search on Epicurious produces 48 guacamole recipes. Among the several versions found on The California Avocado Commission website is guacamóle auténico, which calls for cumin, tomato, sweet white onion, Serranos, cilantro, and lime juice. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen we were told that Chef Burke’s version was the authentic one, and being young and impressionable, I believed it and have stuck by it. Our version called for nothing more than salt, lime juice, and cilantro. I seem to recall that some chopped tomato may have garnished the plate, but it certainly wasn’t incorporated into the guacamole prior to serving.
Aside from ingredients, another place where the guacamole camps diverge is on the question of texture. There are some folks out there who apparently like their guacamole to have the texture of Cool Whip. Should you find yourself invited to my home for margaritas, the guacamole I will serve you will be chunky. The preparation of the avocado is, in fact, my favorite part of guacamole-making. After scoring the avocado in half the long way, twisting each half in opposite directions to release one side from the pit, you can (carefully) smack the heel of your chef’s knife into the pit and twist to remove the pit from the other half. You can then take a smaller knife and score the flesh of the avocado diagonally in one direction, then the other, forming a diamond pattern. Now, take a spoon and, pressing the back of the spoon against the shell, you can scoop out the flesh, and voila! Diced avocado! (For those visual learners among my reading audience, the next time I have avocados on hand, I will take a few photos of this process and add them here.)
One thing about which I’ve learned that my sous chef friends were mistaken, however, is the notion that submerging the pit in your guacamole will prevent discoloration. Thanks to the thorough experiments of Harold McGee, author of The Curious Cook, I now know that the best way to prevent browning (which is caused by the interaction of oxygen with an enzyme in the avocado), is to lay plastic wrap directly on the exposed surface, being sure to eliminate all air bubbles. While the pit will protect the small bit that it touches from browning, Harold tells us that a light bulb would perform the same function. Nothing magic about the pit, and plastic wrap does a more effective job.