One of the many, many things I miss about California is the Mexican ingredients. We never bought our spices in the fancy little glass jars for $8, no, we bought the $0.99 packet with the label in Spanish. The quality was better, and the price magnificent. I haven’t been able to find anything quite like it here in the suburbs of NoVa. This recipe calls for two ingredients I was concerned about finding: dried Pasilla chiles and achiote seeds. I was only partly successful.
A note on dried chiles. Dried chiles often go by a completely different name then their fresh form. No “sun dried tomatoes” here. A jalapeno, smoked and dried, becomes a chipotle. A chilaca pepper becomes a pasilla. The dried poblano pepper becomes an ancho.
This recipe calls for pasilla chiles. The pasilla is a long, narrow and black dried chilaca pepper. It looks like this:
Tragically, many grocers in the United States, for reasons I cannot determine, mislabel the dried poblano, or ancho, as a pasilla. They look nothing alike. Anchos are chubby and reddish, and are sweeter than pasillas.
However, in a pinch, you can use the ancho as a substitute for the pasilla, which was good for me because there were no pasillas to be found.
If you want to make this dish, I highly recommend checking out Wal-Mart for the chile ingredients. They had both the achiote seed ($0.89!) and bags upon bags of dried peppers, which I didn’t find in any of the three other grocery stores I visited. With no pasilla peppers to be seen, I settled for the ancho chiles.
As you can see, this is about 20 more anchos than I needed for this recipe. If anyone has any recipes for ancho chiles, send them my way.
I probably spent as much time shopping for this meal as I did making it. As for the recipe itself, it was solid. I wasn’t impressed with the vinaigrette on its own, but I loved what it did to the pinto beans and onions. I think you could make the beans and onions portion of this dish as a standalone side dish and it would be quite impressive.
I did think the vinaigrette fell short of a steak-sauce alternative, which was the goal of the recipe. Perhaps if it had been a true pasilla chile I would have felt differently? It had a slight bitterness and didn’t have the spicy kick I was hoping for. I did like this recipe and will probably make it again. Next time I think I’ll try adding some chipotles in adobo sauce to the vinaigrette for a smokey and sweet undertone.
If anyone manages to find and make it with true pasilla chiles, let me know your results!
Skirt Steak with Pinto Beans and Pasilla Chile Vinaigrette
(Food and Wine, April 2014) – Recipe by Hugh Acheson
- I used sirloin instead of skirt steak, since the sirloin was $7.99 a pound and the skirt steak was $15.99 and I had gone a little crazy in the cheese puff section at Trader Joes.
- I don’t have a true grill pan, so I used the grid side of this cast iron griddle. The grid functions well as a grill, but I always manage to set off the smoke alarm when I use it, even if nothing is burning. It does create nice grill marks.
- Grilling scallions is LIFE CHANGING. They’re smokey and soft and mild with a bite.
- 1 pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
- Boiling water
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium onion, minced
- Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 teaspoon achiote seeds, finely ground (optional)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 5-inch lengths
- 8 large scallions
- Heat a grill pan. Add the pasilla and toast over high heat, pressing down with a spatula and turning once, until pliable and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the pasilla to a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer the pasilla to a blender along with 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Add the vinegar, lime juice, honey and mustard and puree until smooth. With the blender on, gradually add the 1/4 cup of olive oil until incorporated. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and achiote and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the beans are hot and glazed, about 3 minutes. Stir in half of the vinaigrette and the chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
- Heat the grill pan. Brush the steak with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, brush the scallions with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning, until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and serve with the beans and scallions, passing the remaining vinaigrette at the table.