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Spicy pasilla-mushroom tacos (Tacos de hongos al pasilla)

I have been moving toward a few vegetarian tacos as appetizers because of the diversity these dishes bring to the table and the lighter courses. I find that my guests are surprised and love these bites, it is a step away from the norm

Chilli pasillas are probably my favourite Mexican chilli, with mulato chillies as a close second, because of their deep flavours and spicy tones. Pasilla chillies are dried chilaca peppers and the word translates to "little raisin", although I find the name a misnomer. These peppers are long and a deep maroon-black and are characterized by an aroma that is unmistakable. As a note, quite a few vendors are mistakenly labelling ancho peppers as pasilla, the difference is that anchos are dried poblano peppers and broad while pasillas are thin and long, be wary when buying these. Pasillas are commonly used in moles and sauces and are common throughout the different regions of Mexico.

This dish highlights the flavours of these chillies beautifully, slow cooking the sauce enhances the flavour of this simple mole and the mushrooms add a lovely earthy note to the dish. the taco is simple, the mushrooms coated in the sauce and cheese, nothing else as the sauce is already complex and you really want the chillies to shine.

I met Rick Bayless over 20 years ago before I was cooking seriously at his famed Frontera Grill restaurant in Chicago, still the best margaritas I have ever had, and was discovering the joys of Mexican cuisine. I was fortunate to have dined at both this and the upscale Topolobampo restaurant many a time. I love the complex flavours and his books bring out the flavours in simple no fuss dishes. rick also steps away from the thrashy Tex-Mex cuisine bringing us traditional recipes alongside stories and history of beautiful culture and cuisine. I have a couple of his books and must admit that I do not cook from them often enough.

For more recipes from this lovely cookbook, click here.


For the pasilla sauce:

8 garlic cloves

6 pasilla chillies

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

For the tacos:

1 + 1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chicken broth or water

1 lb button mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons epazote or cilantro, minced

Salt, to taste

Corn hard tacos

Mexican Queso añejo or white cheddar

Roast the garlic cloves in a frying pan till they are charred and soft. Set aside to cool.

Roast the pasilla chillies on the same pan for 1 minute, press them down on the pan for 10 seconds and release them till you see a small wisp of smoke. Be careful not to burn them. Soak the chillies in hot water for 30 minutes till soft. Toss them after 15 minutes so they get evenly soaked. Drain keeping the soaking liquids. Remove the stems, piths and seeds.

Grind the garlic, pasillas, chilli soaking liquid, oregano, pepper and cumin in a small blender till very smooth.

Cook the sauce in a small frying pan with the oil till the sauce thickens and glistens with oil. Careful, the sauce will splutter and the stains will be practically impossible to remove. Set aside.

Add the oil to a wide frying pan and sautè the mushrooms with a pinch of salt till cooked and browned. Add the pasilla chilli sauce and cook further till the sauce coats the mushrooms well. Set aside. This can be prepared ahead of time.

To serve, heat the mushroom mix and spoon it onto the tacos. Top with gratings of cheese lightly. Serve immediately.

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