The first time I lived in Chile was as a student. Chile is as long as the U.S. is wide, so I traveled as much as I could and saw an astounding array of climates, architecture, imposing mountains, extraordinary beaches, and all sorts of other amazements– even penguins! In a town in the south, right about the point where the islands start to break off, a friend and I were eating in a little restaurant. As soon as my eyeballs spotted ‘ave palta’ on the menu, I knew my choice was made. Chileans have their own cherished words for common things– words that differ from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. They are very proud of this, and I found it endlessly charming. Where most would say ‘pollo,’ many Chileans artfully style their chicken ‘ave’ (or ‘bird.’) Similarly, avocado in Chile is ‘palta,’ and is used in a much simpler preparation than in Mexican guacamole.
An ‘ave palta,’ then, is the confluence of three simple elements that combine to make a sublime sandwich: a really great bread (I like whole wheat), nutty smashed avocado with a little salt and lemon, and juicy grilled chicken. If you are an avocado lover like me, this sandwich is pure heaven. If you’re not, it’s still pretty great. High in fiber, healthy fats, and protein, it’s also quite good for you.
Here are some avocado tips to get us started:
There are a few good ways to tell when an avocado is ripe without being past its prime. First of all, the avocado should be soft but not mushy when you give it a squeeze. Next, flick off the little stemlet with your thumbnail and check the color underneath. If it is already brown, the avocado is quite old and you should usually move on. If it is still green or yellow, the avocado is almost always good when you cut it open. This one is just right (even though the photo is a little weird): notice the yellow-green color under the stem.
To easily remove the pit, plunge the blade of the knife in as shown until it sticks. Then, move the handle of the knife from side to side until the pit loosens. Lift the knife, and the pit comes with it. Simple!
Choose your favorite bread. I like mine toasted. Scoop the avocado from its shell to a plate, and mash with a fork. Add a some pinches of salt and a few drops of lemon juice to taste. Spread the palta on the toasted bread. Top with grilled or rotisserie chicken breast, warm or cold. This sandwich is always nice with cracked pepper and an extra sprinkle of salt, if it suits you.
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