If you live in or visit Oaxaca, by all means buy some pasilla de oaxaca chiles, sometimes called chile mixe. These have a much different taste from regular pasilla chiles. Although in the Mixe, this chile paste is eaten as-is, spread on large, crispy tortillas, it is a good seasoning paste. Make a batch of it to use as a soup or sauce base, adding other ground ingredients as you wish. Pepitas, or shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds, could turn it into a base for a simple mole, or ground cumin could be added for another layer of flavor.
The Mixe women would grind the chintestle paste by hand on a metate, but a blender does nicely. Diana Kennedy, in Oaxaca al Gusto, includes a version with cumin, peppercorns, cloves and onions, and Susana Trilling, in Seasons of My Heart suggests adding honey, olive oil and orange juice to make a loose paste to spread on chicken before roasting.
- ½ pound chile pasilla oaxaqueño (Oaxacan smoked pasilla chiles)
- 1 small head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- Salt to taste
- Cumin to taste (optional)
Toast the chiles on a dry griddle or comal, turning to prevent burning, just until the point of fragrance. Place toasted chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until cooled and softened.
Place the chiles, garlic, salt, and cumin if using, in a blender with just enough water to move the blades. Too much water will ruin the “paste” consistency desired. Blend until smooth.
Store the chintestle paste in the refrigerator. Depending on your recipes and the number of people you are feeding, you should have enough seasoning paste to use for at least four recipes.
Oaxaca’s Sierra Mixe: Exploring an ancient cuisine