Back when I lived in Philly, but had already moved out of my parents’ house, I lived down the street from El Vez. I went to El Vez… a lot. My beloved queso fundido seems to no longer be on the menu (rude), but my second favorite is still alive and kickin’ – and it’s an $18 bowl of guacamole. Admittedly, it’s a bowl of guacamole with spicy pepper flakes, goat cheese, and crunchy pistachios, but y’all, no. Unless Jose Garces himself was flying to the avocado groves, picking the avocados himself, and flying them back to Philadelphia in his carry-on luggage, there is no need for this.
Not to downplay the importance of the avocado itself, in Mexican cuisines specifically, but I know that Stephen Starr and his 20 restaurants (in Philadelphia alone) are getting a much better deal on avocados then that. I digress, the point is not the price, the point is that you don’t have to pay that price because I came up with a very quick and easy way to recreate the magnificence of the $18 “Bazooka” Limon Guacamole right from the comfort of the too-small kitchen in the rental house you did not think you’d be in for this long.
While the menu states that this guacamole has roasted tomatoes, let’s be real: most of us are not roasting tomatoes at home just to make guacamole, right? I certainly am not roasting tomatoes at home just to make guacamole. (I do love roasting tomatoes though.) Instead, I pulled an Ina Garten and went with an easy store-bought replacement to kill two ingredients with one jar: Trader Joe’s Chili Onion Crunch. I won’t call things out by brand name and say “this is the thing you must have” all that often, at least not for foodstuffs, but this is the thing you must have. It’s gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free, there’s no added sugar, and a six-ounce jar is $3.99. It is simultaneously crunchy and fatty and is one of the greatest multi-function condiments in my house. So now that you know of my surprisingly strong feelings for this concoction, let’s get to it.
You will need:
- 2 ripe avocados
- 2-3 oz feta, crumbled
- 1/4 cup roasted and salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
- ~ 2 heaping teaspoons Trader Joe’s chili onion crunch
- 2-3 tbsp lemon, lime, or key lime juice*
- Salt, to taste
- A sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Medium-large bowl
* I used key limes when making this recipe to photograph, but honestly they are not my first choice. Lemon is the way to go here, lime is second.
Using your sharp knife, carefully halve the avocados lengthwise and remove/discard the pits. The standard approach to avocado-ing is usually to slice then scoop the flesh out, but I present to you an alternative: the skin is very easy to maneuver, and I just peel it off the avocado flesh. If things get a little mushed up, well we’re making guac anyway. I prefer this approach because it is easier to see the “back end” of the avocado and remove any blackened or fibrous pieces if needed.
Once your avocados are peeled, add all of the flesh to a medium-large bowl. Using the back of your fork, smash the avocados until they nearly resemble the texture of guacamole. At this point, add your salt, two tablespoons of citrus juice (that means not all of it!), and the chili onion crunch. Mix/mash with the fork until well combined.
Before you add the cheese or pistachios, make sure to taste the guacamole mixture and adjust seasoning if needed. I added more citrus juice to mine because the key limes were very mild, but 2 tbsp might be plenty if you’ve got a good, sour lemon! At this stage, a little under-salted is just fine since both the feta and the pistachios will bring some salt to the game.
Once satisfied with the acidity of your avo mash, fold in most of the crumbled feta and half of the coarsely chopped pistachios. Taste again, and at this point adjust seasoning if needed (maybe some more chili oil, who knows!)
Top the guacamole with the last of the crumbled feta and the remaining half of the chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.
For leftovers, cover with plastic wrap so that it is actually touching the guac. You want as little air as possible floating around between the two in order to slow down oxidization (when your guac turns brown).
That’s it, you got your fancy AF guac and it was decidedly not $18! It is also entirely delicious when piled high on a chicken sandwich. Bonus points if you pair it with homemade mayonnaise and/or homemade pickled onions.