Anywho, I found myself in an apartment with a new bed, a TV, my clothes, a toothbrush, and not much else. After spending an hour or two putting my clothes into my new closet, I realized two things:
1) I was hungry
2) I had no idea how to cook
See, the ex-wife had done most of the cooking. I could make a grilled ham and cheese and warm up some canned soup, but that was it.
There was a McDonald's about a mile away from the apartment. The way I saw it, I had two choices... buy stock in Mickey D's and hope I don't gain 200 lbs, or learn to cook. I decided to learn to cook.
I tried watching the Food Network and checking out some cookbooks from the library. The terminology and the sheer volume of "necessary" equipment was overwhelming. Not having a ton of money, knowledge or skills, I picked up a little bit here and there. While I was doing this, I wondered why the heck there wasn't a single man's guide to making good food that didn't require a degree from the Cordon Bleu.
A short time later, after hours of poring over recipes, experimenting (and more often that not, failing) with new recipes, I feel comfortable in the kitchen, and I've even grown to enjoy cooking for myself and others.
But I keep going back to how I felt when I started off. Helpless, overwhelmed... and hungry. I figure I'd share some recipes, and maybe some tips, and I'd do it in as plain a language as I could. Here's my first crack:
You will need:
- 1 sharp knife
- 1 bowl (like a cereal bowl)
- cutting board (HIGHLY recommended, but not required - just know you can knick up your counter and cause permanent damage)
- fork, spoon
- salt (I prefer "kosher salt", but regular salt will do"
- tortilla chips (or whatever you want to use to dip in the guac)
- the groceries listed below
Shopping! You're probably going to spend 3-5 bucks on this stuff.
I've given you some guidelines below on how to pick out good ingredients, but there is a general rule of thumb when you're in the grocery store and you're picking out stuff that you're not used to picking out: look for someone who looks like they know what they're doing... usually they'll narrow their choices down to two or three finalists before making their selection. Grab the last one they set down. You got the silver, and it's fine.
Oh, and grab one of those little baskets on the way in - it'll make your life easier.
2 avocadoes (in the store, they may be called "Hass avocadoes") - They'll be in the middle area of the fruits and veggie section of the grocery store. If you can find them for under a buck a piece, you've done just fine. When you are looking at these suckers, they'll range in color and hardness from bright green and super hard to black and mushy. You want dark green avocadoes - try to find ones that are the same color all around. They should feel a little mushy... when you squeeze it, it should feel like a nerf ball covered by a shell - there should be a little "spring back", but it shouldn't be hard or just give completely.
1 Red OR 1 White onion - These will be in the middle of the fruit and veggie section too. Grab one that's about 3 inches across at its widest. Make sure it doesn't have any dark brown, green, or black mushy spots - that's probably mold, and it can make you sick. Red onions are actually more purple than red - the flavor is a bit sharper... more "oniony" if you will. The white onions are white. Just stay away from the yellow onions - they're too sweet for guac. Onions vary in price. You'll pay anywhere from 50 cents to a buck 50.
1 green lime- still in the middle of the fruits and veggies section. These suckers are will vary in color from light green to dark green. You want something that's green and firm, but not HARD. These will be anywhere from ten cents to 40 cents.
1 bunch of cilantro - These will be in a refrigerated section of the fruit and veggie area. Look around the outside perimeter of the fruit and veggie section. This stuff is green and leafy, with thin green stalks. Look for stuff that's green (no brown or black), not limp (there is no cilantro viagra) and has a smell to it. Feel free to pick it up and smell it - it should have a pleasant, light smell. I always think it smells a bit like lime. A bunch should cost you anywhere from a quarter to 50 cents.
1 Serrano pepper - these will be in the regrigerated section of the fruit and veggie area as well. Look for one that's uniformly colored (no spots), smooth, and green (more on the dark side of green), but still firm - it should be about 3-3.5 inches long and about a 1/3 to 1/2 inch across. These things are like $2.99 a lb... but you'll end up spending about 4 cents on your one pepper.
That's it! You're good to go. Pay for your stuff and head home. Oh, and don't stop somewhere for three hours and leave all this stuff in the car - it'll go bad. If you get home and aren't going to make it right away, toss everything into the fridge except the avocadoes and onion.
When you're ready to make it, here's what you do...
Get out your bowl, sharp knife, and spoon.
- Grab one avocado. You can't eat the skin or the big-ass pit (seed) inside. Do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAAMx_R523o Don't use a towel like they show unless you're comfortable with a knife. Use a cutting board or a plate. The knife is sharp. It will cut you. Be careful with it. Once you get the good stuff out, put that good stuff into the bowl.
- Now, grab the onion. The onion has non-edible things on either ends. I'll call those ends the top and bottom. Lay the onion down so that the top and bottom are on the left and right. Cut right through the middle. Grab one of the two pieces. About 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch from where you made your cut, make the exact same cut, so you're cutting off a slice.
- Put the big pieces of onion in a baggie and throw them in the fridge. Keep your slice on the cutting board (or wherever you're cutting). Cut that slice into a bunch of cubes... the cubes should be the same length and width as the height. Throw the onion in the bowl on top of the good stuff from the avocado.
- It's the serranos turn. Rinse off the serrano. Cut off the stem along with about 1/4 inch of the pepper. If you want your guac spicy, leave the seeds inside. If you don't, rinse out the inside of the pepper.Now, cut your pepper into cubes about the same size as the onion cubes. You can even make them a little smaller, as long as all the pieces are the same.Throw those into the bowl as well.
- Cilantro time! Grab just the leaves (if you get a little stem in there, it's ok - no worries) from about 1/4 of the bunch. Rinse them off with cold water. Cut this stuff as small as you can until you get bored of cutting. This stuff is so thin that it's hard to cut - be prepared for a battle. Don't let the herb beat you! Into the bowl the cilantro goes!
- Now, de-pit and scoop out the good stuff in the second avocado. Toss that into bowl.
- Grab your spoon. Fill it with salt. Sprinkle it over the stuff in the bowl.
- Grab your lime. Cut it in half long-ways. Then, take one of the halves and cut THAT in half long- ways as well.
- Squeeze the lime over all the stuff in the bowl but don't drop the piece in... just the juice goes in the bowl. Throw away the squeezed-out piece of lime.
- Now, grab your spoon and fork. Use the spoon to chunk up the avocado, then use the fork to mush it up. Go after this like a maniac for a bit, but don't make it all mushy... leave it a little chunky. Use the fork to give it a couple final stirs- make sure all the ingredients are mixed equally.
You're good to go! Give it a little taste- you may need to add some more salt or cilantro. Up to you- you're the one eating this. Let me know what you think!One final note... guac does not keep long. Don't make this hours before you plan on eating it because it will turn brown and nasty. Make it right before you eat it... or if you want to make it for friends or a date or whatever, cut up the onion, cilantro, and serrano and throw them in a ziploc baggy. Then you just have to cut up the avocados and dump in the stuff you've already cut up, add the lime juice and salt and mash and stir. Boom bam. Superguac.
If you want to get a little fancy, cook up some bacon, cut it into little pieces, and stir those into the mix at the end.