Third Time's a Dud: Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chilies, Fresh Cheese, and Avocado

Dear Sirs and Madams:
Sometimes I ask questions like: Has anyone seen my Mugi Miso? Or why won't my mom read my blog? Or, what's up with that (with the word that linking to a weird video)? And while all are very good questions, they are basically joke questions. Well, I have real questions this time--questions that I would love to get some real answers to. See, normally the pattern with Bon Appetempt is that we make something for the first time, we either succeed or fail, learn something about ourselves, post it and move on. But this post actually marks the third time we've attempted this recipe, and each time has birthed totally different results. We made the soup late at night the first time and as such, the photos were bad bad bad, but the soup was so good that we thought we would just make it again and get some better photos. Easy, right? Well, this second time the pictures weren't much better but the soup was bad. Same recipe, same process, opposite results. We were confused. We went for it a third time. How did we fare? Not so great.

our (third) version:
The recipe, as written in the book, calls for "2 pasilla chilies." The first time we made this, I purchased what I believed were 2 pasilla chilies. They looked like fresh, green peppers.

[Major sidebar for fans of Rick Bayless: Did you know that he is extremely active on Twitter? I wasn't sure if I could seed and stem the peppers sans gloves so I asked the question via Twitter and Mr. Bayless responded via direct message, almost instantly! He wrote: "Yes, but most people use latex gloves." Thanks, Mr. Bayless and thanks, technology!]

But then after chopping the peppers (with gloves), I realized fresh peppers made absolutely no sense in the context of the recipe as I was supposed to, "Add the chili pieces to the hot pan. Turn quickly as they fry, toast, and release a delicious aroma, about 30 seconds in all." Toast fresh peppers in 30 seconds? So confusing. Now, after a touch of research, I think that pasillas are dried peppers and fresh "pasillas" are a different thing entirely? Question 1: is this right? Lots of contradictory information floating out there on the Internet. Most seem to say it's the U.S. version of the poblano, some say pasillas are by definition dried (but don't tell that to Whole Foods) while others claim pasillas are really found only in Mexico. Anyone wanna chime in/sound off on pepper stuff? I am legitimately interested.

Back to the first time attempt: we continued on with the soup anyway and it was delicious. (See fresh peppers below.)
The second time we made it, we assumed it would be even better since we had learned our lesson and this time, bought dried pasillas.

We were wrong. This time, the broth seemed way too thin and kind of one-dimensional if not flavorless. And then we must have toasted the pasillas for too long because they tasted equal parts bitter and spicy.

Scared by the massive fail of this second attempt, we went against the recipe and back to using fresh pasillas for the third try, but we still couldn't capture the glory of that first try. The third one was average at best, and what is possibly worse is that I have no logical explanations. Each time, we opted out of frying our own tortilla chips and used the same chicken broth. So, how could they be that different?

Will we continue to chase the memory of that first soup and make this again? You bet. Also, Matt and I had an amazing midweek anniversary trip to Desert Hot Springs.

For recipe, click HERE.


Rachel said...

I think pasillas are dried, but I don't know for sure.... I would think maybe you'd have to rehydrate them (in hot water for about 10-15 min), but there's no mention of that. They are generally a standard base for red chile sauce and you definitely used dried and rehydrate for that....

Mary Anne said...

What up wit dat??

I couldn't help but observe that the fresh peppers you used were green, but the dried pasillas were red? Or is that just an illusion?

I made something with dried pasillas once that was a total fail! I tried to make salsa with them, because the best salsa I've ever eaten (at a restaurant in Chicago) is made with pasillas.

What up wit dat?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion yhe soup wasn't that bad the second and third time, it was just really really good the first time. Also, we started with fresh green pasillas in place of the poblanos for the pork chop and stuffed pepper attempt and they were awesome... I think Rachel might be right and we botched the cooking of the dried peppers. What up wit dat?

Amelia Morris said...

Rachel & Mary Anne: thank you sooo much for your pasilla input. I want to conquer this recipe and this pepper once and for all!

sara said...

i also immediately pictured a fresh poblano when i read 'pasilla'. i guess i was WRONG.

ps - i highly recommend toasting your own tortillas and then slicing them with a pizza cutter to get the right texture and shape, a la the first pic.

Rachel said...

Ok. I think I'm wrong about the rehydrating. Rick Bayless' version http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=51 says nothing of rehydrating. But maybe we've solved the mystery of dried vs fresh? He uses dried pasilla chiles... and you can't argue with Rick Bayless when it comes to Mexican food, right?

Amelia Morris said...

Thanks, Rachel (go theta?)! Bayless clearly specifies dried and even adds the description (negro) which would have been WAY helpful in the Slow Food's version, which, I don't know if I mentioned is based off a Bayless recipe! it's all coming full circle?

Rachel said...

ha. go theta indeed....

dulci said...

I love that Bayless wrote back to you.
He was my most fave on Top Chef Masters.


Matt said...

Love the blog. I have had the same trouble with making chilli. I swear I use the same ingredients and the same techniques but some times it comes out amazing and other times it is just average.

Also, what camera do you use for your pictures? I am starting my blog and I love your pics.


Amelia Morris said...

Thanks, Matt.
We use a Lumix LX3. It's the best camera ever and ALMOST looks as cool as the Leica version. Def. recommend.

Iva Messy said...

that looks INCREDIBLE!!