One of the reasons I love Mexican markets so much is that they never failed to surprise me. Sometimes it is the people you find there or the controlled chaos that reigns in the aisles. But I get mostly fascinated by new ingredients that jump in front of me when I least expect it.
You might think I’d be familiar with most ingredients since I grew up in a restaurant and my dad used to take me shopping to the markets all the time. I can recognize a lot of ingredients and navigate relatively well through the aisles of a Mexican market (not an easy task to the inexperienced). However, every visit to a market is a new and fascinating experience. Especially in those occasions when I discover a new ingredient.
Last month I went to Mercado San Juan with Lesley Tellez and she took me to her favorite dried chile stand. She introduced me to one of her new favorite chiles, the Oaxacan pasilla chile, aka chile Mixe from the region of Oaxaca it comes from. I love pasilla chiles because they can add a lot of flavor to a dish without a lot of heat. However, this chile pasilla is unlike any other I’ve tasted. This chile is hard to find outside the state of Oaxaca. Mercado San Juan is the only place in Mexico City where I’ve seen it. I personally didn’t even know about it before.
At around $1 US dollar a piece this chile is almost a luxury in the city. But paying that “high” price is worth every Mexican penny. The flavor is unlike any other chile I’ve had before. From the moment you pick it up the strong smoky smell (that reminds me of campfires and wood ovens) promises a great taste. And it doesn’t disappoint. Lesley has a recipe for a tomatillo salsa that uses this chile, but I decided to make a sauce to serve with steak tips (basically sirloin steak that has been cubed).
My intention wasn’t to make mole, but as I added ingredients to the mix and cooked them over slow heat, the sauce resembled more and more a mole, but an easy mole with a lot of flavor that went perfectly with the steak tips. I was really happy with the end result.
- 2 pasilla oaxaqueno chiles
- 4 roma tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2-3 cups chicken broth
- 3 oz dark chocolate
- 3 TBSP ground pepita (ground pumpkin seeds)
- 2 cloves
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1 lb steak tips
- 2 medium zucchinis, sliced
- •salt and pepper to taste
- Cut open and seed the dried chiles. Place them in boiling water (aprox 1 cup) for about 1 minute to rehydrate.
- Blend chiles with tomatoes, garlic and 1 cup of broth.
- Using a strain, pour into a medium size sauce pot. Add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil.
- Add cloves and ground pepita (this is to thicken the sauce) and stir.
- Add chocolate and stir until it dissolves. Add salt to taste.
- Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
- In a large cast iron skillet sautee onions over olive oil.
- Add steak tips and season to taste.
- When the steak tips are half way done (they look pinkish at this point) add the zucchini and let it cook for about 6 to 7 minutes.
- Serve the steak tips over a base of sauce. Mexican rice goes perfectly with this dish.