Thursday, 23 October 2008

Pasilla Chile

Pasilla chile is the dried version of the Chilaca (more about this another time) chile. Pasilla chile is a 15 to 20cm long & 2 to 4 cm wide with dark, wrinkled skin. Mild to medium hot with a flavour best described as swarthy. Think balsamic vinegar, charred dried tomatoes & baked potato skins. Think Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Arr.
So what can you do with it? It can be toasted & crumbled over soup, or added to sauces (it's an essential ingredient in Mole Poblano). Luckily it has an affinity with mushrooms. And cheese. Yes indeedy.
So we may as well dive in, cutlasses clamped in our jaws, and do a recipe that'll do it justice.

Pasilla Mushrooms (good on taco's and also tostadas, fajitas, or spooned over sliced grilled aubergines)

8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
6 Pasilla chiles
1tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin seed, bruised
Toast the garlic cloves on an ungreased frying pan over a medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft & blackened in spots. Remove the stem & seeds of the Pasillas & press onto the frying pan for a few seconds at a time to toast them while the garlic is roasting. Put to one side. Remove garlic from the pan & peel (all this is for extra flavour, you can leave this part out if you want & just start at the next bit).
Place the chiles in a small bowl & cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes. Strain, reserving 80ml of the soaking water. Put chiles, soaking liquid, garlic, oregano, cumin & a dash of black pepper into a blender or food processor & blend to a smooth puree (adding a little water if it's too thick). Put to one side.

1tbs olive oil
125ml vegetable stock or water
225g sliced mushrooms (anything you like, tame or wild. Shiitake & portobellos are good. So are chestnut mushrooms)
1/2 onion, diced
feta cheese, crumbled (as little or as much as you fancy)
1tbs epazote (if you don't have it, don't worry. Leave it out or use coriander leaves)

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chile paste & stir (making sure it doesn't stick or burn. It will try to thwart your efforts. The smoke alarm that never notices burning toast will also try to thwart your efforts). After 5 minutes it will have thickened into a dark, delicious paste, and you will forgive it for being such bloody hard work to make. Add the stock, stir & add the mushrooms & epazote (or coriander) & simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. By then the sauce will be thickly coating the mushrooms. And you should reward yourself with alcohol.
While the sauce has been thickening & you have been putting the batteries back in the smoke alarm (and the beeping it makes has scared the cats out of the house for the rest of the evening), open a packet of tortillas (corn tortillas are best. Home made corn tortillas are the nicest thing in the world. But wheat ones will do fine) & persuade fellow diners to stop playing GTA4*.
Check mushrooms & add salt & pepper if needed, transfer into serving dish & top with crumbled cheese & onion (but you thought I'd forgotten about those) & serve with tortillas.
Om nom nom!

*Yes, I know you're in the middle of a mission, Liberty city will still be there in half an hour

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