12/08/2012 02:05:00 PM

Chef Secrets: Rick Bayless Talks Margaritas and Guac

Seasonal depression kicking in? Time to break out the tequila! Chef Rick Bayless (of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo fame) just released a new cookbook called Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks that should bring a little sunshine (aka booze) to these cold winter months. This week, we got the chance to chat with him while he demonstrated some recipes from the book - and we scored a few tips direct from the source. To see this celeb chef's tactics for the perfect margarita and some killer guac, click through the jump.

Bayless' Margarita Secrets:
- Keep it natural. “If you use sweet-and-sour mix, it doesn't matter what kind of tequila you use, it's going to taste artificial,” Bayless said. He prefers to use fresh-squeezed lime juice or his own house-made limonada (one cup of lime juice, a half cup of sugar and one and a half cups of water).

- Always go for 100% agave tequila. This doesn't mean, however, that you have to spend a fortune. Bayless recommended El Jimador, a “really solid” 100% agave tequila that costs around $15 a bottle.

- Spice things up. Bayless recommended adding ginger syrup and a splash of cava to a classic margarita for added flavor (and fun) and seasoning the glass with some muddled kaffir lime leaves.

- Always go for salt. Bayless hates sugar-rimmed drinks. “Even when I do a sugar rim on a dessert cocktail, I always add a bit of salt, too,” he said. Adding a little tiny bit of salt to a margarita is “just really fabulous,” he said. “There’s a beautiful, synergistic relationship there.”

About That Guac:
- Don’t overdo it with the lime juice. “A lot of American chefs put way too much lime juice in their guacamole, because they think it will keep it from getting brown. But it really just mitigates the flavor of the avocado,” Bayless said.

- Always rinse off your onions after you chop them. This is why Bayless can’t stand when restaurant servers make guacamole in front of you – they can’t wash the onions after they chop them! This is an old Mexican cooking trick that gets rid of the sulfurous compounds on onions that cause you to tear up, makes your breath smell, etc.

- Go crazy with the add-ins. “I like to teach people how to go beyond the standard recipes and make the dish their own,” Bayless said. He showed us how to make a nontraditional (but very seasonal) guacamole with chopped apple, fennel and thyme instead of the usual tomato, onion and cilantro. His book showcases all kinds of guacamoles for every season, including watermelon-ginger and roasted jalapeno-blackberry-mezcal varieties (yum).

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