A Master Class in Guacamole with Rick Bayless

There are four major food groups, I am told. But is there a food you eat so much, it needs to be your personal fifth food group? What would yours be? Mine would be guacamole.

In search of the perfect guac, I’ve tried countless recipes, researched techniques and pleasurably tasted innumerable versions. I found a technique in Alice Waters’ cookbook, In the Green Kitchen, written and shown by Rick Bayless that enchanted me and got me using my mortar and pestle. I wanted more knowledge from Mr. Bayless, a winner of Top Chef Masters competition, not to mention a National Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, and ordered his cookbook, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks. Looking through it, I came to Chapter Seven entitled, “A Master Class in Guacamoles” and, well, fainted from sheer bliss.

After I woke up, I started working my way through each recipe. There are simple recipes like Guacamole with Bacon, Grilled Ramps and Roasted Tomatillos, Guacamole with Strawberries and Habanero and Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole. All of these, for us living in the South, have easy to find ingredients and the cook and prep time are fast and simple.

As master classes go, things start easy and progress to more difficult and complex. After making the recipes above, along with learning more about roasting the vegetables to add more complex flavor, you hit the recipe for Roasted Jalapeño Guacamole with Blackberry-Mezcal Jewels. I have never read a recipe this easy for guacamole with this kind of ‘Wow’ effect. As Bayless explains, “..if you mash the blackberries into the guacamole, the color is, well, less than appealing.” So, he features the blackberry flavor through a agar-set gel. Something I had never heard of, have you? It’s basically as easy as using a gelatin with a texture difference of being “crisp-tender rather than the typical gelatin bounciness.” These little jewels are made with blackberries, agar flakes, mezcal, sugar and salt and are served as a topping. You use a loaf pan to mix your ingredients, allow it to set, take it out, cube it, and then serve the guac on a chip and put these tiny, delicious cubes on top. Talk about dramatic, easy, and an incredible taste profile! Genius, I say, just genius.

There are eight more guacamole recipes in this chapter making for a grand total of 12, basically, a year of guacamoles using what is seasonally available or fresh to enhance and change this appetizer. He talks about eating it with chips, with scooping into endive or romaine hearts or eating it with my favorite, jicama, used as a chip substitute (which I suggest soaking in lime juice in the fridge for 30 minutes and salting with sea salt before eating).

I can’t wait to work through the rest of this cookbook. With chapters devoted to Margaritas, Tequila Cocktails and... wait for it... Mezcal Margaritas, I think this is going to not only be my go-to entertaining book, but my go-to hospitality gift, when I am looking for the perfect hostess gift.

Article by our staff member and resident cookbook expert, Molly

Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780393088922
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 5th, 2012

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