Recipes: How to make simple, authentic Mexican guacamole
Get ready for summer with an avocado classic, plus pork and chicken dishes to serve it with, from Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street.
These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.
Too many guacamole recipes are a muddle of flavors, so we traveled to San Francisco Coatepec de Morelos, a tiny hillside village three hours from Mexico City, to find a better way. We learned that using just a handful of traditional ingredients — like white onion, serrano chilies, and cilantro — allows the dish’s simple flavors to be the focus. Try it paired with adovada, an earthy, chili-rich dish of fork-tender hunks of braised pork popular across Latin cuisines. Or for a more weeknight-friendly approach, try it with our version of chilorio, a pulled pork dish (we use faster-cooking chicken thighs) from the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
Central Mexican Guacamole
Makes 4 servings
Mashing the cilantro, chilies, and onion in the same bowl as the avocados kept their flavors in the food, not on the cutting board. Guacamole hinges on the ripeness of the avocados; they should be soft but slightly firm.
Don’t discard the seeds from the chilies; this recipe relies on them for a pleasant heat.
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 serrano chilies, stemmed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
3 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1 pint (10 ounces) grape tomatoes, finely chopped
Tortilla chips, to serve
In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the chilies, onion, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mash with the bottom of a dry measuring cup until a rough paste forms, about 1 minute. Scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher or fork. Stir in half of the tomatoes until combined. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and tomatoes. Serve with tortilla chips.
Makes 8 servings
For convenience, we’re using just two widely available varieties of peppers: medium-hot New Mexico chilies and fruity, smoky Mexican guajillos. (Guajillos are less common; if you can’t find them, double up on the New Mexico chilies.) In all, we use a full 6 ounces of chilies, but temper the heat by seeding them. Pork butt, cut from the shoulder, is fatty, so it’s important to trim as much fat as possible from the meat — between the muscles as well as on the surface — to prevent a greasy stew. After trimming, you should have 4 to 4½ pounds of pork. If the stew still ends up with fat on the surface, use a wide, shallow spoon to skim it off.
This adovada is rich and robust; it pairs perfectly with Spanish rice, stewed pinto beans, and warmed flour tortillas.
Don’t use a picnic shoulder roast for this recipe. The picnic cut, taken from the lower portion of the shoulder, has more cartilage and connective tissue, which will make trimming more difficult. Also, don’t use blackstrap molasses, which has a potent, bittersweet flavor.
3 ounces New Mexico chilies (about 15), stemmed, seeded, and torn into pieces
3 ounces guajillo chilies (15 medium), stemmed, seeded, and torn into pieces
1 5-pound boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1½-inch cubes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lard or grape-seed oil
2 medium white onions, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon molasses
Lime wedges, to serve
Sour cream, to serve
Fresh cilantro, to serve
Place the chilies in a large bowl, pour in 4 cups of boiling water, and stir. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chilies have softened, about 30 minutes. Transfer half of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the remaining mixture and blend until smooth, scraping down the blender as needed. Measure ½ cup of the chili puree into a small bowl, cover it and refrigerate until needed. Pour the remaining puree into a medium bowl and set aside; do not scrape out the blender jar. Pour ½ cup of water into the blender, cover it tightly, and shake to release all of the puree.
Place the pork in a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons salt and the chili-water mixture from the blender. Stir to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the lard until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, and cayenne, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in ½ cup water and the chili puree from the medium bowl. Add the pork. Stir to combine, then cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover, stir, and return, uncovered, to the oven. Continue to cook until the pork is tender, 1¼ to 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and set on the stove over medium heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved ½ cup chili puree and the molasses. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, and cilantro.
Orange-Guajillo Chili Pulled Chicken
Makes 4 servings
Fresh orange juice amplifies the fruity notes of the guajillo chilies while giving the sauce a natural sweetness; a little vinegar and honey help the overall balance. Serve the chicken with Mexican rice or tortillas, or use it as a filling for tacos. Diced white onion, sliced radishes, and crumbled queso fresco are excellent garnishes.
Don’t forget to trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs before cooking to prevent the dish from being greasy.
1 ounce guajillo chilies (5 medium), stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups orange juice
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, toast the chilies, pressing with a wide metal spatula and flipping halfway through, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and pour in the juice; press on the chilies to submerge. Let stand until the chilies have softened, about 10 minutes. Set the skillet aside.
In a blender, combine the chilies and juice, garlic, vinegar, coriander, honey, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour the puree into the same skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, cover, and cook over medium-low, stirring and flipping the chicken halfway through, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 20 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and set aside until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Using two forks, shred into bite-size pieces. While the chicken cools, bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Stir the shredded chicken into the sauce, then taste and season with salt if necessary.