If I say Chicago, what food snaps into your mind. Pizza? Dogs? Cabbage rendered in a thousand different ways? That’s a dangerous topic to ask a person from New York, the home of true pizza and the world’s best hot dogs. And, and, which city has won more World Series?
Back to food. Chicago? I think Mexican. And largely because of one man: Rick Bayless. Frontera Grill is his flagship Chicago restaurant, a site that for over 20 years has served delicious, ethnically authentic, outstanding food. Rick has many books but this one, Frontera, packs in 50 recipes just from that singular restaurant. Over all those years, a lot of avocados have arrived at the back door of Frontera. A lot of happy people have left hours later through the front door, the tang of guacamole on their tongue, the vapors of margarita sublime in their brains.
Wonderful variations for guac and margaritas — plus some snacks — are presented here, reflecting years of trial, experimentation and ultimately perfection.
Take this guacamole. It has cheese. Like goat cheese. Would you have thought of that? I would not, but I do love the taste. Goat cheese adds both its distinctive flavor and mouth feel. Rick says this dish is substantial, and prefers it as side to shrimp, chicken, fish or pork. I put a chip in the picture because I could never make a batch of guac and not at least taste test. In this particular case, Suzen and I taste tested the whole bowl.
What did we do then? Why we dipped into our emergency supply of ripe avocados. You have one of those, right?
Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole
Yield: 4 cups
- ½ medium white onion, sliced crosswise into 3 rounds
- A little olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 small ear of fresh corn, husked and cleaned of silk
- 1 fresh poblano chile
- 3 ripe medium-large avocados
- ¼ cup crumbled Mexican fresh cheese or other fresh cheese, like salted pressed farmer’s cheese or goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1-2 tablespoons epazote [or cilantro]
Heat a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until medium-hot and the coals are covered with gray ash. Lightly brush both sides of the onion slices with oil, sprinkle with salt and lay on the grill.
Oil the corn and lay it beside the onion, along with the poblano (no oil needed on it). When the onion slices are browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes, flip them and grill the other side. Turn the corn regularly until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Roast the poblano for 5 to 7 minutes, turning it until evenly blackened. Let the roasted vegetables cool.
Chop the onion into ¼-inch pieces. Cut the kernels from the corn (you need about ¾ of a cup). Rub the blackened skin off the poblano, pull out and discard the stem and seed pod, tear the chile open and briefly rinse to remove stray seeds and bits of blackened skin. Cut into ¼-inch pieces.
Cut the avocados in half, running a knife around the pit from top to bottom and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to release the pit from one side of each avocado. Remove the pit, then scoop the flesh from 1 avocado in a large bowl. Scoop the flesh from the other 2 avocados onto a cutting board and cut them into ½-inch pieces. With an old-fashioned potato masher, a large fork on the back of a large spoon, thoroughly mash the avocado this is in the bowl.
Scoop the diced avocado into the bowl, along with the grilled onion, corn, poblano and 2 tablespoons of the fresh cheese. Sprinkle with the lime juice and epazote [or cilantro], then gently stir the mixture to distribute everything evenly. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.
When you are ready to serve, scoop, the guacamole into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.