I’ve learned a lot about cooking, and entertaining for that matter, from my Uncle Gary (my favorite uncle, as I often remind him). He’s taught me to become a proficient charcoal griller, prep a bar for any party and order almost everything on the menu at a restaurant with no apologies. Most importantly, he remind me to have a blast while doing all of it.
I became a student of Uncle Gary’s during our annual summer trips to my grandparent’s house on Iowa’s Lake Okoboji – which some have called the happiest place on earth. It’s the place where our extended family would gather for meals, drinks, games, boating and laughs that put your stomach in knots. It was in preparation for many of these epic meals that Uncle Gary would take on the role of grill master, and many times commissioned me to be his apprentice.
The time we spent hanging around our Weber grill with a cut of meat from our local butcher shop, Forbes, were some of my favorites of the summer, because it meant sharing a beer (or several) with Gary and absorbing all of his knowledge. He taught me how to smoke ribs until they were fall-off-the-bone tender, moderate the coals for an all-day pork butt roast, avoid overcooking a pork tenderloin and cook a bacon-wrapped filet worthy of any steakhouse. And during our grilling academy sessions, he showed me how to make a simple yet highly addictive guacamole recipe.
It was a humid, sticky day at the lake, and while we had stiff vodka cocktails in hand, we desperately needed a snack while our pork ribs finished smoking. Gary grabbed some avocados, red onion and blue cheese and started whipping up a bowl of what he said was guacamole. At the time I was skeptical. “Why the hell would you want to put blue cheese into something that’s already great?” I thought.
He handed me the bowl, along with a giant bag of Tostitos scoops and said something to the effect of “here, put this out there, and it will be gone in no time.” My uncle certainly knows the ways of a boozing crowd. That bowl didn’t last 20 minutes. Granted, the eaters in our family aren’t shy, but several scoops of this with a cocktail were heaven. Whenever summer rolls around now, this is one of the things I want sitting out while I watch over the grill.
Now, I usually don’t even believe in recipes for guacamole, choosing rather to abide by the “a little of this, a little of that” method until you arrive at something that fits your tastes. But perhaps this is just an excuse to eat 12 chip-fulls of the stuff before it makes it to the table. However, I did create a recipe below as a starting point. As my good friend Lisa K would say though, “rules are just guidelines,” and for me this definitely applies to guac. If you like it hotter, throw in more hot sauce. If you like equal parts avocado and onion, do it. My little sister Ellie told me she threw in Frank’s Red Hot sauce, instead of the usual Tabasco, and it was a perfect combo reminiscent of Buffalo wings with blue cheese (All I hear is Ina saying, “How bad can that be?”)
I will say that the one thing I’ve found that isn’t negotiable for me here is the Maytag blue cheese. I tried this recipe with Roquefort, and even Gorgonzola, but found Maytag was the only way to go. It’s pungent but straightforward, which is exactly what you want.
A note on serving: If you’re presenting this to a new audience, make sure to put extra blue cheese crumbles on top. If the blue cheese part isn’t clearly communicated, some might think your guacamole has got some unwanted funk to it.
Gary’s Blue Cheese Guacamole (makes about 2 cups):
3 medium Haas avocados, halved and seeded
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 ounce Maytag blue cheese, crumbled (plus more for garnish)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Cracked black pepper to taste
6-8 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
Score the flesh of each avocado into a medium dice with a knife. Use a spoon to scoop out the pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add the juice of one lime to the bowl, then gently mash the avocado chunks with a fork (I only do this to about half of the bowl since I like those meaty chunks of avocado in my guac).
Add diced red onion, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Add crumbled blue cheese, mix until incorporated.
Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl and top with extra blue cheese crumbles. Serve with tortilla chips.