Salsa de Chile Pasilla de Oaxaca, Chiles Cooked in Ash

With a bag of ash from Teotitlan del Valle and a bag of smoked chilie pasilla de Oaxaca, I’m picking up where I left off in December.
The smoked chilie pasilla is a unique chile in Oaxaca, available nowhere else. The ones I picked up last trip are small to medium in size. They impart a smokey aroma to the air. Lovely.
While the tomatillos cooked on the stove, I heated the ash in a cast iron pan.

Once I could detect adequate heat, I tossed the chilies in, buried them and turned them around in the ash.
Miraculously, gratefully, the chilies puffed up.
I shook them of excess ash, and soaked them in hot water to make them pliable but not falling apart.
The cooked tomatillos were drained and cooled, waiting for their turn in the blender.
Remove the stems, seeds and inner membrane from the chilies, place in the blender with the garlic and a bit of the soaking liquid to loosen the blender. Blend until smooth.
I realize the photo above is not very appetizing but I want you to understand the texture.
Next, tomatillos are blended until smooth, and the two mixtures are stirred together. Salt to taste.
You don’t really need to ash to make this recipe, but it’s a fun party trick, or practical purposes, a technique you could use when the barbecue coals or mesquite is still hot. If it imparts a distinct flavour, it’s subtle. The chiles can also be lightly toasted on a comal or cast iron pan, and the soaked.
The recipe is simple:
1 pound of tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cooked
4 to 5 chilie pasillas, cooked in ash or on a comal
1 to 2 medium garlic clove
salt to taste
Ash is optional
The salsa has an elegant smokey heat with a slight sweetness perfect on grilled meats or shrimp or alone as an accompaniment with tostadas or chips.

3 Responses to “Salsa de Chile Pasilla de Oaxaca, Chiles Cooked in Ash”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I made the version of this in The Art of Mexican Cooking and I have also made the salsa de chile pasilla de Oaxaca in Zarela’s book.

    I don’t know if it’s just the batch I got, but in both cases I found the smoke taste overpowering. I used small chiles to make the sauce and in the case of Zarela’s sauce, it only called for one chile and this was simmered for 15 minutes. I make lots of salsas with chipotles and moras in which the smoke flavour does not take over.

    The descriptions I’ve read say that the chile pasilla de Oaxaca has a less intense smoky flavour than the chipotle, but this seems not to be the case to me.

  2. Thanks for your posting your experience!
    I have purchased – unknowingly – the chilie pasilla de Oaxaca with varying degrees of smokiness, so it could be the batch you had.
    The other thing might be to adjust the amount of tomatillos to the recipe. That might smooth out the smokiness.
    You didn’t mention if you used a lot or a little of the soaking water, that might also affect the overall flavour as well.

    Great to hear from you.

  3. update: I would also suggest looking at the size of the chiles you’re using, and adjusting the chile to tomatillo ratio. Both factors will contribute to the end product.

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