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Guacamole Gregorio

No, I will *not* retire

Some of¬† you know that the only thing I’m cocky about is my guacamole. I have won more than my fair share of guacamole showdowns, and last summer, after years of secrecy and paranoia, I released the recipe to Guacamole Gregorio to the world.

Then, at the end of the 2008 gaucamole season, I announced that I was considering retirement, Brett Favre style (meaning, I would tease the public throughout the off-season as to whether I truly would retire).

I was on the fence until this past weekend, when I whipped up perhaps my best batch ever. It all worked — the organic red onion, the ripe avacados, the cilantro, the touch of cumin — and I was able to create joy in my small corner of the universe.

So today, I am announcing that I am returning for one more season. One more season for this crafty old bird. One more season of wholesome ingredients, Latin jazz and ice-cold Tecate. One more season of making my friends and family smile. One more season of working very carefully with my hair-trigger ingredients.

‘Nuff said. … Let the 2009 guacamole season begin.

I give to you … Guacamole Gregorio

For so long, I refused to share the secrets of my guacamole success. How selfish. How insecure. How short-sighted.

When the 2008 guacamole season opened, I finally realized just how ugly my secrecy had become. So I decided to listen to all the repeated calls for my guacamole recipe. I decided that, rather than horde my power, I should “open-source” it to the world. On Aug. 1, I would give the world Guacamole Gregorio.

And so here we are. The day has come.

And with that, some things to consider.

First, great guacamole is so much more than a tablespoon of this and dash of that. It’s about the total experience. So this is how I approach my guacamole, and I think it’s one reason I have won my share of guacamole showdowns. In other words, have faith.

No. 1, if you want to achieve guacamole greatness, you need a phenomenal supporting cast. Think of the great legends in sport and the arts. Each has had phenomenal support to help them achieve greatness — Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon had future Hall of Fame receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, for instance, and in the seminal comedy, Old School, actor Luke Wilson benefited greatly from the supporting efforts of Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn.

So, in the context of your guacamole, it, too, needs great support. First, you need an ample supply of ice-cold Tecate. The Mexican beer (along with some great Latin jazz, which we will discuss in a minute) will not only put you in the right mood as you prepare your guacamole, but also amplify the nuances of sublime guac. Also, you need the highest-grade tortilla chip possible. Mass-produced, wafer-thin chips from Illinois? Um, no. A bag of thick, slightly salted, authentic tortilla chips? Absolutely essential. I recommend Casa Sanchez, which puts out a phenomenal bag of thick chips.

Next, the music. … Since we’re talking about a Mexican dish, I suggest Latin jazz. Specifically, plan your first outing with Guacamole Gregorio for Sunday afternoon/evening (or any Sunday), which is when Latin-jazz aficionado Jesse Chuy Varela airs his world-class Latin Jazz radio program from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m, California time. The best thing is, regardless of where you live, you can join us Sunday via KCSM’s live web streaming site.

With Tecate, great chips and Varella’s commercial-free Latin jazz, you’re ready to make guacamole.

So with that, let’s roll …

Avocados — I can’t emphasize enough the criticality of avocado selection. In short, be prepared to spend some time searching for the right avocados. Feel them. Squeeze them. Tickle them. … What is your criteria, you ask? They should be pretty damn soft. Not gooey-soft, but pretty soft nonetheless. Smell them. Is the aroma ripe and rich, or acidic? Go for the ripe and rich aroma. If you can’t find one that is ripe and soft, take a few and let them sit on your window sill for a few days. … When the moment comes to make your guacamole, remove the skins and the pits, dump the green meat into a bowl and mash them. .. Take a sip of Tecate. … With the Latin jazz popping in the background, dance-walk to retrieve your next item.

Red onion — The red onion is essential. It provides balance, and a sweet kick. It’s a matter of how much you use, but I go with about a handful of finely diced red onions and chuck them into the bowl. I also keep a mound of additional diced red onions for taste adjustment at the end of the process, if needed.

Cilantro — Beware: too much cilantro can send your guacamole over the cliff. It’s happened to me too many times. So use it with restraint. Dice up about a tablespoon of the stems (yes, the stems) and then add a handful of the leaves. Remember, it is best to error on the side of restraint rather than abundance.

Garlic salt — Don’t use garlic powder. Garlic salt adds a sharpness to the guacamole that the powder never will. I use about two teaspoons of garlic salt, but it will again depend on your tastes and sensibilities.

Cumin — Cumin is an essential component of Guacamole Gregorio, but it can ruin your batch if you use too much of it. So sprinkle a very small amount onto the palm of your hand, spread it out with your other hand and release it evenly into the bowl, then mix it up thoroughly. Better to start with less and add more to taste, if needed.

Vegetable oil — A tablespoon of vegetable oil lends additional polish to the texture.

Lemon — I don’t use limes. I find that the lemon juice provides a better balance without the bitterness of the lime. Don’t go overboard. Too much lemon juice will overtake your guacamole.

Noticing a theme here? I hope so. The point is that Guacamole Gregorio is comprised of an assortment of hair-trigger ingredients. At any moment, and with little provocation, one of them can explode in your face and taint your batch. But working in concert together — at the right moment, with friends and family waiting nearby for the first taste, the Latin jazz blaring, a can of Tecate perspiring — these ingredients can combine to create magic.

Here’s hoping you find it.

One exhausted bowl, two others plenty full

How do you know that you have done your best, that you have greeted the challenge before you with a performance of which you can be proud?

Well, when it comes to guacamole showdowns, perhaps the best indication is the very bowl in which you have presented your batch. When the party is over, is your bowl empty, exhausted? Or is it still plenty full? Is it apparent that people have been scraping chips against the ceramic bowl, leaving only a few faint streaks of green? Or do you have enough for sandwiches next week?

Does it matter that my Guacamole Gregorio won more votes than the others in today’s aforementioned guacamole showdown at Sun Microsystems‘ Menlo Park campus? No. Does it matter that my bowl of guacamole was fully exhausted? Most definitely.

I’d like to thank Lisa for her fierce competition. She made a great batch of guac today, using all-natural ingredients, fueled by a philosophy that guacamole should be about, more than anything, the avocado. She also used 10 avocados compared to my four, so it’s understandable that she’d have guac left in her bowl. And I want to thank unsuspecting newcomer Paul, who walked in with his own formidable bowl of guac and won a lot of street cred (you can hold your head up high, too, Paul).

What’s important? It’s not that I WON THE SHOWDOWN. What’s important is the fact we have collectively raised the profile of guacamole.

Be sure to stay tuned this summer as I prepare to open-source Guacamole Gregorio to the world Aug. 1

Also, a few people took photos of today’s festivities. I’ll add them to this post as they become available.

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