Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
A great way to perk up a pot of soup, a salad, or beef stew
When one of the most quality-centric suppliers we have, a company that has spent three decades searching and researching the world’s spice markets and has put together a portfolio of over 500 super high-end offerings, tells me that a particular product is one of THE best things they sell, I pay close attention! The de Vienne family have never led me astray. So when they told me a few years back how much they liked the Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles, I was confident that the dried peppers inside the “Épices de Cru” tins would be truly terrific!
The chiles come from way up in the Sierra Mixe, about a six-hour drive up, down, up again, down again, and then up high into the mountains from the city of Oaxaca. The remote location and relatively limited production has meant that these special chiles are little-known outside their region. They’re prepared pretty much as they’ve been for thousands of years. Big red bold Pasilla peppers are left on the vine well into the fall months then picked and smoke-dried for three or four days. The region’s climate—with lots of fresh cool air, and tons of sun—is particularly conducive to chile growing and smoking. The de Viennes made the long, very bumpy, and not very glamorous drive up into the mountains to track them down. My friend Rick Bayless has long recommended that we, “Make the effort to find the Pasilla de Oaxaca.” Thankfully for us, de Viennes did!
Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles are big, bold, and smoky. The chiles come to us already flaked so that they can be added to finished dishes at the table as well as used in cooking. If you want to bring out the flavor a bit more than usual, you can dry toast them in a skillet, then rehydrate them in a bit of warm water. I’ve been adding them as is to just about everything. Dark red in color, really nearly black, the heat is modest, the flavor fantastic. The end result is a noticeably smoky, seriously fruity chile (sort of in the plum, peach scope of things). Pasilla literally means “little raisin,” which they’re also reminiscent of. They’re almost bacony in flavor. In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb and just say it—these are the “bacon of the chile world!”
Great in sauces, salads, pastas, and rice. I made a really delicious lentil and chicken stew that was laced with a good dose of them. Sprinkle the Pasilla chile flakes onto a mix of jicama and pineapple pieces. Try a pork stew with plenty of the Pasilla de Oaxaca and bacon. A generous sprinkling of the chiles is excellent in simple cheese quesadillas along with avocado, lime juice, and a good bit of the delicious Épices de Cru wild cumin. Amazing in a simple dish of sautéed shrimp with lime juice, a bit of garlic, and a good sprinkling of cilantro. If you finely grind the chiles, you’ll have a remarkably rich paprika to sprinkle onto meat, fish, pork, or potato salad.
Quite simply, I think these chiles are stellar. Show-stoppingly superb! If you like chiles, I’m confident that you’re gonna really like these!