"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

It’s a guac: My second attempt at good guacamole

by Julie Tilsner on April 14, 2008

in Good Ideas Gone Bad, Kid Food, Snacks & Sides, Vegetarian

The last time I tried to make guacamole, I was living in New York City and prepping to watch the Superbowl with a gaggle of grad school friends. “I’ll make the guacamole,” I chirped, “because I’m from California!”

Only a few short hours later I realized that I’d held up the stereotype of the dumb blonde from L.A., by dint of even attempting guacamole in New York in January. The only avocados I could find were $6 apiece and hard as granite. The delicious Superbowl dip I’d hyped with such bravado came up short in every way possible. And I wasn’t even a blonde at the time.

Arrrg. Never mind that guacamole is one of those party favors everyone has a secret recipe for, like chili. Also one of those dishes everyone can make. You learn in college, along with English lit and Poli Sci 101 and Partying 210. Once again, however, I did not get the memo. Or the syllabus.

Fast forward some 15 years or so. My seven-year-old son comes home from Spanish class with a little Tupperware container filled with delicious guacamole. “I helped!” he told me, all excited. “Can we make some more tonight?” He hands me the recipe on a little slip of paper. Of course, I chirp again. I love that my kid is enthusiastic about making something in the kitchen. I make a special trip to the store on the way home to buy serrano chiles and tomatoes and cilantro.

The recipe:
2 ripe avocados
1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon course salt
dash of freshly-grated black pepper
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped.

All of this would seem straightforward, written in my native language of English and all. However, I apparently can’t see the word “mince.” I don’t really know how to mince. I have a chef’s knife. Two, in fact. But I don’t know how to use them. The best I can do with “mince” is “un-symmetrically-chop.”

The limes I bought mysteriously don’t have any juice in them. Not a drop. I substitute lemon juice from one of those plastic lemon containers and accidentally squirt waaaayyyy too much into the glop.

Also, although I know what happens when you handle chiles and touch your eyes, I don’t warn my son strongly enough. He chops two chiles himself (not knowing what mince means either, and besides, he’s only 7), then rubs his eyes and face, which then puff up red and cause him to run through the apartment in great pain and anguish, and altogether not in the mood for guacamole and chips. I run after him with a cold washcloth, because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, in the kitchen or in minor medical emergencies.

The end result of this grand second experiment with guacamole: Green goop that’s too spicy with big chunks of onion in it. All of our gringo tongues were on fire after a few bites, and nobody wanted anything more to do with it. It sits as I write this in a container in the fridge, destined, sometime this week, for the garbage bin.

Dare I even attempt this most basic dish again? Are there any secrets out there anyone cares to impart to me?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Holler April 14, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I would be done with that and through it all in a blender next time, lazy me! Chilli sting,is not at all good! Poor thing, ouch 🙁


Kelli Johnson April 14, 2008 at 10:57 pm

You might try the kitchen helps recipe…avocados, salt, lime juice…potato masher…that’s it! Open a jar for the rest of the stuff…or steal more than your fair share of the delicious tomatillo salsa at baja sonora…
For the annoying juice-less limes, you can sometimes coax enough out for your recipe by microwaving for few seconds and then rolling on the counter to break up the pulp…
Now I have a craving for guac!


Kelli Johnson April 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Oh, and please throw away that plastic lemon, that’s just wrong! If that’s the closest you can get to lime juice, you’re better off to go without! And, it’s spring in california and there have to be lemons hanging over a fence somewhere that you can reach! You simply must hop on your bikes and scope out “alley fruit”. There are buckets of fruit just going to the birds around here! Literally, the birds, chirp.


Elfini April 15, 2008 at 9:10 am

Ok, here is my secret guac recipe that Chris swiped from Victor. Don’t tell anyone else!
Best of all, it doesn’t involve any mincing! And I’m sure the purists will be cursing my name, but this guac is quick, easy and good! I always make it when we have company and Sharon loves it!
Cut at least 2 (I like to start with 3!) avocados into approx 1 inch cubes. I like my guac chunky and all the stirring in ingredients will blend it nicely. Add a small spoonful of mayo (oh dear, here comes the foodie hate mail!) and stir. Start with a very small amount since you can always add more if needed, but you probably won’t. Then add a spoonful of hot salsa you picked up in the deli section at the store. Add garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne powder to taste. I always end up adding more salsa. A squirt of lime juice to keep the guac from turning brown. And yes, I have the plastic lime in the fridge as back-up.
Easy – and no one will get hurt! Enjoy.


Sam's Mom April 15, 2008 at 11:46 am

zap the lime in the microwave for about 30 seconds, for some reason it makes the suckers juicier. Now I’m craving some guacamole 🙂


Cheryl Lage April 15, 2008 at 5:29 pm

My hubby has got the guacamole mojo…and he doesn’t use recipes (ARGGH!)–lemme see what wisdom he can impart and get back with you!
Hope you’re well…happy almost Pesach!


LH April 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm

The Cooks Illustrated book recipe for Chunky Guac worked pretty well for me, although the consistency was a bit off. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a set of power tools. Or the kind of blender that you might find in a normally-equipped kitchen.
Glad the boy wasn’t blinded for good.


uberchik April 16, 2008 at 9:23 am

OMG. I am looking at a Mexican take out menu. Flautas are $6.89 for two!!!
It is inexpensive to make this stuff. I ate it all the time, until my Mexican Irish chef took off with the maid. LOL


Cate O'Malley April 20, 2008 at 8:12 pm

The best guacamole is when you keep it simple. I wrote about the version we use now right here > http://verygoodthings.blogspot.com/2005/11/think-green-marthas-homemade-guacamole.html. You can do it! 🙂


Anne May 4, 2008 at 8:31 pm

I use two avocados, about 1/4 C. of sour cream, a few chopped green onions or a shallot, lime juice, some kosher salt, pepper, and some sriracha hot sauce (the one with the rooster on it). If I have tomatoes or bell peppers I chop up some of those, but it’s easy and always tastes good even without! Cilantro also completes the deal but I don’t always have that in the fridge…


rav May 12, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Don’t forget another secret ingredient: a splash of soda water.


Kenya June 6, 2008 at 9:17 am

Hi there, I know this post is almost two months later but I was actually looking for a guacamole recipe to try for the first time myself when I stumbled acorss your site. I’m sorry you had such a tough time with mincing but thought I could offer a suggestion. Again, It’s been since April and you have probably figured this out already. I personally don’t mind mincing or chopping veggies but I bought myself a vegetable chopper for tasks such as that and it’s been a WONDERFUL time saver. The one I have resembles a mini food processor and it wasn’t that expensive. All you have to do is roughly chop, or as you put it, “un-symmetrically chop” your veggies, dump them in the chopper and pulse either on high or low until you see tiny bits of veggies or until the blade is no longer chopping, you’ll know because it will sound like the blade is just “free spinning”. I usually pulse on low unless it’s something fairly heavy like carrots. That way you won’t have to worry about the lil kiddo getting his eyes burned (poor thing) and the machine does all the mincing for you. I hope this little mishap hasn’t discouraged you at all from trying the recipe again, the one you posted looks great. I just bet if you invest in a chopper, you will have perfect guacamole.
Oh, and -whispers- toss that plastic lemon thing in the garbage….fresh is better and if you want to get fancy, use a bit of the zest as garnish. I’m learning, and with wonderful results, that “fresh” is the way to go. I don’t always have fresh herbs on hand so I keep a bottle of McCormick’s freeze dried cilantro(and various other herb blends) in my freezer. I don’t know if it helps it last longer but it comes in handy when I’m making cilantro lime jasmine rice. It also keeps me from shouting, “Great! I don’t have (insert fresh herb here)…now I have to run to the store.”
When I make my guacamole, I’ll do so in you and your son’s honor. Wish me luck! I can stop back by with the name of the chopper I bought, that little thing is a time saver.


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