We met up with Rick Bayless yesterday for a quick demo at The Institute of Culinary Education, where he showed us how to make some of the guacamoles and margaritas from his newest book Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks
While we were intrigued by his classic "perfect margarita", his sparkling ginger margarita, tweaked with ginger syrup, kaffir lime leaves and topped with cava, and his seasonal apple-fennel guacamole, (more about that to come in our full review of the book) one of the most interesting parts of the afternoon was a tangent about avocados.
You can't make a good guac without a good avocado. And according to Bayless picking the right kind is imperative.
Caribbean avocados, which are most often grown in Florida, have a bright and sweet flavor, but are lacking in oil content — the oil is what makes guacamole so lush. (it's good fat, so don't worry.) These large fruits will make your guacamole watery and simple. Save these to be cubed or sliced into salads where their sweetness and texture will shine.
Bayless is a fan of Wild Mexican avocados, which are fig-sized with a huge pit. The flavor is intense, but the skins are papery and, oh yeah, they are generally unavailable outside of Mexico. Fun fact about this varietal — it's the only avocado tree that has flavorful leaves. If you are following an authentic Mexican recipe and it calls for avocado leaves, this is what you are looking for.
So what kind of avocado to use? Bayless recommends the Hass avocado which fortunately is the most common kind of avocado grown in the U.S. "It's a hybrid cross between the wild Mexican and Guatemalan varieties" he explained " And it has a richness that makes for smooth, thick and luscious guacamole.
Once you've found your type, how do you tell if it's ripe? "Avocados are one of the few fruits that doesn't ripen on the tree" explained Bayless. "It's not until it's picked and put in the right conditions that it starts to ripen. Keeping avocados at 50 degrees or below suspends ripening for up to a year." Strange but true.
When buying avocados, "make sure it has the little button" advised Bayless, referring to the remnant of the stem, found on top portion of the avocado where it was once attached to the tree. You will almost never find a ripe avocado at the shops. Bring them home and keep them in a warm environment and within a few days, they will be ripe enough to be lovely to eat. How to tell? "When an avocado is fully ripened, there will be a give when you gently press at the wide end," Bayless advised. "That's the last place to ripen" so when it is soft there, the rest of the fruit is ready.
If the fruit ripens sooner than you are ready for, you can put it in the coolest part of your fridge and it will hold for up to a week.