When you watch chef Aarón Sánchez at work, you might see him grill lobster, pickle grapes or stuff poblano peppers with all kinds of glorious ingredients. But there’s one thing you’ll never see this award-winning Latin chef do: put an avocado anywhere near an oven.
“The magic of avocado is that it should be eaten fresh,” the MasterChef judge told Taste of Home. And that’s no secret. Anyone who’s watched him at a tasting knows: If a contestant presents the panel with a baked (or roasted, or sauteed) avocado, they’d better be ready for a raised eyebrow from Chef Aarón.
“I’m more of a purist,” he says of the fruit — yep, fruit — that has been eaten by the people of Latin America for thousands of years.
The longer an avocado is exposed to heat, the more quickly it loses the cool, creamy texture people love. Instead, it becomes mushy, brown, and incredibly unappealing. Here are 10 more cooking tricks that are only taught in culinary school.
How should you prepare an avocado?
“I love simply taking an avocado, scooping out the flesh and serving a crab salad over it,” says Chef Aarón, who is also chef/owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans. But serving avocado raw isn’t your only option, he adds. You can grill it lightly too.
“And I’ve seen some chefs tempura fry it,” Chef Aarón says.
For tempura, cooks should coat the avocado in panko breadcrumbs or batter and drop it in hot oil. In a flash, the outside will be crispy, but the interior will retain its richness. It’s great with a creamy dipping sauce. But if you’re going to take it to heat, Sánchez says, make sure to choose an avocado that’s slightly underripe.
One of the chef’s all-time favorite way to eat avocados? On fish tacos — and he shared the recipe with us.
Aarón Sánchez’s Grilled Fish Tacos with Tequila-Lime Crema
“This dish should be served family-style — everyone will want to build their own tacos,” he writes on his blog, in a post sponsored by Cacique, maker of Hispanic cheeses, chorizos and cremas. (Bonus tip: You can make your crema up to a day ahead.)
For the adobo rub:
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 pounds mahi mahi fillets, skin removed (halibut works, too)
For the crema:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 lime, juiced
- ¼ cup premium silver tequila
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
For the toppings/assembly:
- 1 package (10 ounces) queso fresco, crumbled
- 2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 4 limes, quartered
- ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- Pico de gallo salsa
- 1 diced avocado (sprinkled with a little lime juice to prevent browning)
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed
- Combine all rub ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
- Gently rinse and pat dry the fish fillets with paper towel. Apply the rub liberally over the fish fillets, on both sides. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
- Combine all the crema ingredients in a blender and pulse until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.
- Arrange the queso fresco, cabbage, onion, lime wedges, cilantro, avocado and pico de gallo on a large serving platter. Bring out the crema and place in a bowl.
- When ready to serve, grill the fish fillets on a hot, well-oiled grill for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Heat the tortillas over indirect heat while grilling the fish.
- Serve the fish in a serving platter, with the warm tortillas in a bread basket.