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The Emerald Gem of Latin America

The Emerald Gem of Latin America

Fresh, frozen or refrigerated pulp, avocados are the key ingredient on menus across dayparts.

Long before avocado toast dominated brunch menus and guacamole prepared tableside impressed fussy food enthusiasts, the green-ish, pear-shaped fruit was a staple on Latin American and Mexican menus. According to the Dairy Council of California, avocados are said to contain quite a bit of potassium, dietary fiber and fats, a.k.a. the “good fats,” shown to lower bad cholesterol. While that’s certainly beneficial, most diners order it because it simply tastes good.

For chefs, particularly those specializing in Latin and Mexican fare, the avocado is also a necessary ingredient. The seasonal fruit, however, can be temperamental when it’s off-peak. But there are now ways to get around that issue with fresh avocado alternatives. For some chefs, the secret weapons are frozen and/or refrigerated pulp avocados.

“For consistency factor, or for the off seasons or when the prices really go high, frozen avocados and avocado purees are a great substitute,” says Demetrio “Chef D” Marquez, who works as a corporate chef for Reinhart Foodservice’s New Orleans division. “Eighty percent of Latin restaurants switch to them and don’t have any problems. … They’ve become one of the main fruits for salads, burgers or Tex-Mex [cuisine].”

In original recipes he’s created such as a guacamole and blue crabmeat tostada salad as well as a chorizo and cactus taco, Marquez easily swaps in frozen avocado.

For Chef Jeff Merry, avocado pulp comes in handy when he wants to add a quick twist to guacamole.

“Take, for example, the pulp and add sour cream, more diced tomatoes and roasted peppers,” explains Merry, who serves as corporate executive chef for Reinhart Foodservice’s Boston division. “It would be the foundation or building block for guacamole. It’s easy to work with.

“I also like mixing it with mayonnaise and doing an avocado aioli for a Southwestern grilled chicken sandwich. I put pepper jack cheese on it and use that avocado pulp with mayonnaise and sour cream to thin it down a little bit.”

He advises operators to use frozen avocados when the fruit is sparsely featured on the menu.

“Let’s say I need it as an ingredient for a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) sandwich, and it requires sliced avocados on it,” he says. “It’s one of 50 sandwiches on my menu, and maybe I need avocado for one other thing like an Aztec grilled chicken salad. I would only pull out what I needed, and I wouldn’t have to worry about the perishability of a fresh avocado.” Merry also believes using fresh avocado alternatives is good business practice.

“Unless I am taking avocados off my menu when they’re $70 a case vs. $30 a case or I’m going to upcharge my customers every time they order guacamole or avocados, I think you’ve got to look for a balance,” he says. “If I am a mid-tier bar and grill, I can’t charge exorbitant amounts of money for things that have avocados in them because it doesn’t fit my customer base.”

Using avocado alternatives also saves on labor, says Kevin Nash, chef for Reinhart Foodservice’s Eastern Pennsylvania division.

“If I was going to make an avocado soup, and I’m just looking for the flavor of the avocado and not necessarily the vibrant green, then I would go for the frozen,” explains Nash, who also uses the pulp in his duck tostada recipe. “Then that pulp is going to save you some labor. You can also produce a guacamole in a manner of minutes with just the pulp.”

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