In Texas gaucamole is omnipresent.  There are as many recipes as there are bragging-prone machos. avocadosdark.jpg I myself not being one to brag,, Ahem.., my recipe is based on 3 simple rules.
1.    Purchase them Green and Hard. 
Rodolfo Fernandez is the top Avocado expert in our region.  For many years he provided the best-tasting avocados to Mexican restaurants throughout San Antonio.  I follow his advice.  At the produce section, purchase Haas aguacates while they are still green and very firm. Store them in a bag, plastic or paper, and wait two days, maybe three, at which time they'll begin to ripen and soften.  It is then that they are at their peak of flavor. There is no substitute for this direct, natural taste.  You'll say, wow.
2.  No Masks.
The fresh, full flavor of the avocado takes nicely to complementary seasonings and accompaniments but be judicious. At all costs do not mask the texture or flavor of the aguacate.
3.  Use a Molcajete. 
In the recipe below I explain how the foundational flavor is developed in a molcajete.

Avocado is aguacate in Spanish and aguacate is derived from the original Nahuatl name, "Ahucacahuitl."
The name appears in early writings, MesoAmerican hieroglyphs, documenting that the Avocado is native to Puebla, Mexico.  Here is an original glyph of anglyphaguactown.jpg avocado tree linked to the place where the tree originates, the town of "Ahuacatlán." (1)  The earliest remains of avocado consumption, 8,000-7,000 BCE, have been found in a cave in what is currently Coxcatlán in the state of Puebla, Mexico.  From there the little lush fruit travelled and developed.  There are three botanical types of avocados, Mexican, Guatemalan and Antillean. mapmexavocado.jpgThis map (2) lists where the origins of each of the types may have developed. Notice that the Mexican avocado is within the current TexMex area.
So enjoy this recipe knowing, again, that for millenia our land has nurtured us with delicious fruits and wonderful cooks.  Hmmmmm!

Recipe: serves 6 -- thanks to Chef Roberto Santibañez whom I met in San Antonio and on whose book this is based. 

2 Haas avocados
1/2 Tbsp Green Serrano chile, sliced
1/2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tspn white onion, small dice
1 tspn salt
1/4 cup tomato, small dice
2 Tbsp white onion, small dice
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

1.  Using a molcajete, make a fine paste of the onion, chile, cilantro and salt.
Here molchileverdesml.jpgis wheremolchilehandsml.jpg I mentioned that you can develop the flavor direction that your guacamole will take.  You may add other seasonings to the molcajete, but keep in mind that you are following many years of tradition.  Make sure your variations are culturally relevant, enticing to the palette, and not just vacuously trendy.
2.  Dice the avocado and add to the molcajete, scraping and folding to make sure the avocado is covered with the seasonings. 
3.  Add the remaining tomato, cilantro and onion.
4.  Serve immediately with crispy corn tortilla chips.

Guacamole con Frutas (3)  Serves 6 
2 Haas avocadosavocadograpsml.jpg
3/4 cup fresh mango, small cubes
10 red seedles grapes, halved
10 green seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 Tbsp Green Serrano chile, sliced.  Note:  I like to add more chile than this because I love the sweet fruit taste with the serrano flavor.  But start with this amount and then see if you want to increase the serrano flavor.
1/4 cup tomato, small dice
1 tspn salt

1.  Make the molcajete paste as above, of course there is no cilantro.
2. After combining the avocados with the molcajete paste, fold in the fruits. 
3.  Adjust the salt. Garnish with additional pomegranate and serve with crispy corn tortilla chips.

Buen provecho, TexMex!

(1) HISTORIA DEL AGUACATE EN MÉXICO, Salvador Sánchez Colín, Pedro Mijares Oviedo, Luis López-López, Alejandro F. Barrientos-Priego.

(2) HISTORIA DEL AGUACATE EN MÉXICO, Salvador Sánchez Colín, Pedro Mijares Oviedo, Luis López-López, Alejandro F. Barrientos-Priego.

(3) Printed in Classic Cuisines of Mexico by Chef Iliana De La Vega, Culinary Institute of America, adapted from Roberto Santibañez and he from Diana Kennedy and María Dolores Torres-Izabal.

Pecan-smoked Pork Loin

Here's a recipe that results in a succulent, melt-in-your-mouth pork loin, just in time for this cold weather and friends.
smokedporksml.jpgBy keeping the temperature at 185º F and making sure the smoke does not turn densely white, the smoke flavor is subtle, sweet.  I'm feeling giddy since I served it, so I'll paraphrase a line from the movie, Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe: "ever-new arising vistas of harmonizing flavors!"

ok, slap back to real. 
This is the formula for the brine that I use. It makes 3 gallons and is plenty for two 3-lb pork loins:
2 1/2 gallons room temperature water
1/2  gallon ice
2 lb salt
1 lb brown sugar
1 ounce TCM (tinted curing mixture)  Note: Being aware of the pros and cons of nitrates and nitrites in TCM, I think a moderate use is prudent and good. You may omit the TCM and your smoked meat will turn out fine.

1.  Add the sugar, salt and TCM to the water and stir until completely dissolved.
2.  Add the ice to cool the brine.
3.  Cut off excess fat and weigh the pork loins.  Inject them with an amount of brine that equals 10% of their weight.  Injected brine for a 3 lb pork loin would be thus: 3 lb loin X 16 ounces = 48 ounces.
Then 48 ounces X .10 = 4.8 ounces.  So you'd inject 4.8 ounces of brine. (it's convenient that 1 fl. oz. of water weighs 1 oz.)
4.  Place them in a stainless steel or plastic container and completely cover them with the brine.  Top them with a heavy dish to keep them submerged.
5.  After three days of brining, remove them, rinse with fresh water and pat them dry. 
6.  Air dry them to form a pellicle according to the method that we used for the Thanksgiving turkey.
7.  Then smoke the pork in Pecan wood, also according to the method used for the Thanksgiving turkey.
8.  Smoke for 4-6 hours or until the internal temperature is 155º F.

Knife Skills and Slicing:
When I served it at the buffet table, the slices were ultra thin, as you can see.  This makes for a beautiful presentation but also adds to the melt-in-your-mouth texture.   Ackowledgement is due the CIA for their strong chef training programs. When I was at the CIA our class of 18 culinary students was drilled for 3 weeks in "precision knife skills." It takes a lot of practice, and you use a very long slicing knife that is razor sharp. 

Chef Kevin Babbitt, fellow CIA grad, helped me prepare the buffet feast and to him goes the credit for slicing the pork and arranging it as you see it laid out in the picture.  He is a highly talented young fine dining chef who is making a great career.  If you'd like to write to him and congratulate him, his email address is:

KevinAMslicesml.jpgHere I am encouraging Chef Kevin Babbitt to cut the pork wafer-thin and with precision!  Bon Appétit.

Smoking a Thanksgiving Turkey

amsmokepit.jpgKarla McLaughlin drove all the way to my home to deliver this 15 pound organic-fed, free-roaming turkey and two pork loins.  She generously took the time because I was in a pinch, facing a party deadline. She is a one-of-a-kind farm owner.  Knowledgeable, caring and meticulously strict about raising the turkeys and other animals that she and her husband, John, tend on their farm.

They call it "Olde World Farms" and it is located in Montgomery, Texas. No antibiotics, no animal products in their feed.  The turkeys stay inside large barns until they are big enough so that the hawks won't swoop them up. Then they grouse around and eat freely on the farm.  You can contact Karla or John at (936)-597-3999.  Their email is
To prepare the turkey for smoking, this is what I used to make the
3 gallons warm water
1 lb salt
12 ounces light brown sugar
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
Stir until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved then let the brine cool down completely.
1.  I used a syringe to inject some of the brine into the meat. the total amount of brine should be 10% of the weight of the turkey.  Here's the math for a 15 lb turkey.
15 X 16 ounces = 240 ounces
240 ounces X .10 = 24 ounces of brine. (FYI: One fluid ounce of water weights exactly 1 ounce)
2.  Using a plastic or stainless steel container, submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 3 days. The container was too heavy and large for my refrigerator so I partially filled a large ice chest with ice and a little water and set the container in it.  Closing the ice chest, the temperature is maintained at a safe 37-39 degrees F 
3. After the third day, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it thouroughly with fresh water, pat dry and place in the fridge, uncovered, for 16 hours until a pellicle forms on the skin.  This tacky glaze will help absorb smoke and keep in the moisture.  I hate to say this but in the interest of efficiency, omit this step if you don't have time to do this or if there's no room in the fridge.
4. Smoke the turkey in Pecan wood at 185 F for about 6-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.   
Ok, yes,  you can enjoy a beer meanwhile, and ponder this:
A)  The habit of cooking and eating turkey predates us by centuries and
B) The bird came from Mexico and is native to this land, Americas.
mapcoba.gif I've placed a dot on the location of Coba, Mexico, near Cancún.(1) This is where archeologists have found the earliest evidence of turkey remains.  They are dated 100 BCE-100 CE.  From there the turkey went north and populated North America, evidence of the vibrant trade and communication withiin the region pre-1400's.   By the time the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, we had domesticated turkeys not just in Mexico but also in what is now the US New Mexico and Texas.  Thereafter the turkey, wild and domesticated, populated the whole of the US and some of Canada. By your second beer, you will have pondered that we and the turkey go back a long way. 

Let me know how it turns out if you decide to smoke for Thanksgiving.  ¡Feliz Día de Dar Gracias!

(1) map used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.