Chef John Ash

Renowned chef, author and teacher, Sonoma County, CA

by: Jesse Hom-Dawson

John Ash has been a prominent figure in the Northern California food community for over 30 years, opening his namesake restaurant John Ash & Company in 1980. Since then, he’s published four cookbooks, won numerous awards and spends his time teaching, consulting and speaking, at various events around the country.

As a pioneer of high-end regional wine country cuisine, it might come as a surprise that a favorite dish of Ash’s to cook at home has its roots in foreign street food. Ash is still able to remember the first moment he tasted avocado fries, on vacation to Mexico in 2009: “Six years ago, while I was in Oaxaca, I came upon one of the popular food stands that line the streets and beaches in Mexico; they served fried avocado that had been dipped in flour, topped with lime juice and salt. It sounds unusual, but they’re actually very popular in Mexico, Brazil and other South American countries.” Enamored with the dish, Ash created his own version of avocado fries, which are great as a passed hors d’oeuvres or as a snack with an ice cold Corona or Pacifico.

Instead of the traditional flour for the outer coating, Ash dips the wedges in panko—Japanese bread crumbs—which creates a crispier and lighter texture. Chipotle aioli is the perfect complement, and using ready-made mayonnaise is an easy alternative to the homemade version. While it is not essential to let the aioli sit after mixing it together, it is recommended, as it lets the flavors develop and integrate. Keep in mind the ripeness of the avocado you’re using; Ash warns, “Too hard, and the avocado won’t have any flavor. Too soft, and the avocado will turn to mush when you fry it.” He suggests finding an avocado that has just a little bit of give when you squeeze it gently. “The great thing about avocados,” Ash says, “is that they have no moisture and lots of fat, so the fries can be served hot or at room temperature, as they will stay nice and crispy for a while!”

Avocado Fries with Chipotle Aioli

Serves 2

2-3 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 large firm, ripe avocado
½ cup flour, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
2 medium limes
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Chipotle aioli (recipe follows)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan to 375 degrees.

Leaving skin on the avocado, cut it into quarters lengthwise. Discard pit, peel and cut each quarter in half lengthwise, for a total of 8 wedges.

Place seasoned flour on a small plate. In a small bowl combine the egg mixture with the juice of one of the limes. Cut the second lime into 6 wedges. Place the panko on another small plate.

Dredge the avocado wedges first in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip into the egg mixture and finally into the panko to nicely coat. Fry the wedges until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove and drain briefly on paper towels. Serve immediately with the lime wedges and the chipotle aioli.

Chipotle Aioli

Makes about 3/4 cup
1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle in adobo or to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
⅔ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Stir all together and adjust salt to your taste
Let mixture stand for at least 30 minutes before serving for flavors to develop. Can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

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