Chiles Seco

When I began writing VSVEVG, food was a major theme. I adopted the phrase– Very Simple, Very Easy, Very Good, a saying of Dean Zanella, a grand Italian chef I had the honor of working with, as a component of my basic philosophy, and the name of my blog. When my tastes boiled down to radishes—pretty much just radishes (vsvevg, but not very interesting) the foodie portion of the blog dwindled. But recently, I discovered a recipe I was inspired to share.

Though at times my life revolved around my next meal , I thought, cooked, talked, dined and dreamt about it, the obsession wasn’t enough to make me a meticulous cook; it’s not my nature. Gourmand or no, I have always been a lazy cook, loath to use a measuring device, or think of a recipe as anything but a guideline, or reading material while I sip wine and wonder if my dinner will turn out because I ignored most of the instructions.

When I began cooking in Mexico I was dismayed by the laborious task of cooking with dry chiles. To make a sauce, or chilitio as we call it here, a catch all for eggs, cheese, meat or vegetables, a sauce made of guajillos, cumin, garlic and cloves, that will stretch four eggs to feed ten or more, the chiles must be: seeded, toasted, boiled, blended, sieved and fried! I do this when there are no other chiles available, but generally I use ancho chili because it doesn’t have to be sieved (the most tedious part of the process).

When I came upon this recipe and noticed you only have to toast the chilies I knew it was for me!

Salsa de Chili Pasilla *
4 chili pasilla, whipped clean, left whole
1 clove garlic
¾ cup water
¼ tsp cider vinegar
1 tbles finely chopped onion
Toast the chiles over medium heat. (It’s important not to burn chili, it makes them bitter. Turning frequently toast until they’re rich brown and smell like good pipe tobacco. It takes about 30 seconds per chili.) Blend the chiles with salt, garlic and water. Don’t over blend, it should have some texture. Stir in the vinegar, and top with onion.

I added vinegar to the recipe. I adhere to the Thai belief, the best food is a balance of sweet, picante, salty and sour. Pasilla’s aren’t very spicy, they’re nutty and sweet with a subtle after burn. It’s a good sauce for sensitive palates. Still, Felipe, whose seldom eats anything without also munching whole Serrano’s thought it delicious. It’s a perfect table sauce, smeared in a tortilla with a simple meal of eggs, or grilled meat, and it makes a tasty taco with a piece of queso anejo.
A delicious and impressive (muy authentico) salsa for lazy cooks, definitely, VSVEVG!


*From Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico

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