As far as party appetizers go, guacamole is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It’s easy to make, friendly for those who are gluten-free, vegetarian, or lactose intolerant, and is so good. And, with the addition of chunky tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro, you might think you’ve jazzed up this party food nicely (we’d agree), but Rick Bayless, the award-winning chef-restaurateur and cookbook author has a concept that can top that: a customize-your-own guacamole bar.
Bayless got the idea after watching people, when presented with guacamole, salsas, and other garnishes, create their own unique guacamole creation by layering the ingredients they liked most. “Essentially, you’re customizing each guacamole bite, which can lead to a delicious experience,” he explains. Want to recreate this at home? Bayless has shared his tips and recipes for creating your own guac bar — perfect for entertaining any time of year.
1. Think of these recipes as a guideline and customize the garnishes to your taste. Start with a simple guacamole, and serve with chips and grill-toasted baguette slices. “I’ve noticed that chips alone lull people quickly into dipping, when layering is more the message here,” he explains.
2. Toppings can be as simple or complex as you wish. Bayless likes to serve his guacamole with two finely chopped salad-like salpicónes, one with crab and jícama, the other with roasted poblanos and either salmon or mushrooms. Serve a couple of types of salsa, as well — perhaps a classic chopped tomato salsa and one with roasted tomatillo, orange, and chipotle.
3. Don’t forget the garnishes! While you can easily go overboard once you start thinking of fun toppings, Bayless advises to not offer too many; “the point is to provide your guests with what they need to create a memorable experience for themselves.” When choosing garnishes, opt for contrasting textures and flavors, like toasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled cheese, sliced pickled jalapeños, even crisp bacon bits.
4. When serving the guacamole, keep it cold as “it thins out and discolors quickly when it warms up,” Bayless says. He suggests nestling your bowl in a large bowl full of ice. Alternatively, for something for decorative, soak a terra cotta pot that fits your serving bowl in water for a few minutes, then chill it in the refrigerator for an hour or so. “It’s a simple, old-fashioned, low-tech way to keep something cool for an hour or two,” Bayless says, and you can do the same for your bowls for garnishes, too. He also recommends serving only half of the guacamole, keeping half chilled so it doesn't thin out.
5. Most importantly, don’t forget to serve your guests a drink as soon as they arrive. Bayless likes to serve Champagne margaritas but also makes sure to have beer, wine, and water on hand for those who prefer something else. For a party of 12, Bayless suggests stocking the bar with two bottles of a crisp white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, one or two six-packs of beer, like Dos Equis or Pacifico, and a couple of bottles of sparkling water. (Photo courtesy of Frontera Grill)
The Ultimate Guacamole Bar Menu: