Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and we have another fun family recipe to help you celebrate this Mexican holiday in style.
We are so lucky to be surrounded by a family full of foodies, and my cousin, Zack Berger, is no exception. Zack is big, bold, clever and funny, and his recipe for "Rough-Cut Guac" is a unique and delicious spin to the traditional avocado dip.
Two summers ago, Zack and his family spent a week at the family cabin on Lake Melissa in Minnesota, and he made this guacamole for us almost every day.
What makes Zack's version different is that he uses sautéed chorizo and jalapeno pepper, as well as charred sweet corn, which add wonderful flavor, spice and depth to this dish. -
Chorizo is a flavorful Mexican sausage that can be found locally in hot or mild styles. Once removed from its plastic casing, it can be quite soft. For this purpose, we place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm it up before slicing.
After making Zack's original recipe, we realized that we had enough guac to feed a small army, so we have adapted it for smaller groups. Zack's original recipe called for three jalapenos, but we're recommending one to two in this version, depending on your taste. Whatever amount you choose, use half to cook and save the other half to add later.
Cooking the jalapeno, even with its seeds, will mellow its spicy heat and enrich its flavor. Most of this pepper's heat is in its seeds, so we use them only when cooking, saving just the chopped raw pepper to add at the end.
Zack's recipe involves a few additional steps than traditional guacamole, so take time to prepare your mise en place first - put everything in its place before starting.
Read the recipe carefully and chop any vegetables and herbs, measure ingredients, lay out all pans, utensils and other required equipment. In this recipe, everything but the avocados is an easy rough-chop and can be prepared several hours in advance for quick assembly just before serving.
Lately, the avocados we have found in our local stores have been perfectly ripe for guacamole. They should be soft to the touch, and your finger should leave an imprint after pressing it.
If you can't find ripe avocados, we have a great trick to speed up the ripening process: Place the avocados in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple, folding the top over to close the bag and store in a cool, dark place. Within 24 hours, the avocados should be ready to use (I've even had success after just four hours).
Zack adds the avocados with the rest of the ingredients at the very end, squeezing them from their shell instead of chopping them. Making guacamole is not an exact science, so taste the mixture at this stage and adjust flavors as desired, adding more lime juice, salt, pepper, jalapeno and cilantro to suit your taste.
Zack recommends serving his guac with Southwestern, black bean or seasoned tortilla chips. We made our own chips with fresh corn tortillas baked in the oven, a perfect weight for this hearty dip, and the experience was almost as good as having Zack here in person. Almost.
Zack's Rough-Cut Guac
Extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 jalapenos
1 link of chorizo sausage (or other spicy sausage)
½ white onion, large-diced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro, freshly chopped
½ can sweet corn or 1 cob of corn
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by preparing all the mise en place in advance. Rough-chop the onion, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos and set aside. Save the seeds from the jalapenos.
Place the chorizo in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm it up before cutting. Once firm, cut into slices and then halve each slice.
Coat a medium sauté pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and add the sweet corn. Cook over medium heat until charred, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
In a separate pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add half of the chopped jalapeno and all the seeds, cooking over medium-low heat for about three minutes. Add the sliced chorizo and continue to cook over low heat, stirring often until the meat is fully cooked. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion, tomatoes and cilantro with the juice of half a lime. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chorizo-jalapeno mixture, including the oil from the pan. Taste and add the remaining raw jalapeno if desired, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the avocados by squeezing each half into the bowl - do not chop. Add the corn and gently toss. Taste again and add more cilantro, lime juice, salt to your liking. Serve with seasoned tortilla chips, black bean chips, tacos, etc.
Mise en place is a French culinary term meaning "putting in place." Taking time at the start to get everything ready - chop vegetables, measure ingredients, set out required equipment, etc. - will ensure a smooth cooking process.
Everything, with the exception of the avocados, can be prepared several hours in advance.
Do not cut the avocados until ready to use, as they brown very quickly when exposed to air. Cut and add them just before serving.
Homemade Tortilla Chips
One package corn tortillas
Sea or kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush one side of each tortilla lightly with oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt, stack the tortillas oil-side-up and cut into sixths. Lay wedges (oil-side-up) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly golden in color and desired crispness is reached. Watch them closely so they don't brown.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com