What do I do with chili pasilla? (chili pods)
First we need to be sure what kind of chile you have. As JonParker says, fresh poblanos are sometimes called "pasillas". Dried poblanos are also sometimes called "pasillas". Do you have a long and narrow chile? That's the most common going under the name "pasilla" and is a dried chilaca. Or is it wide at the top tapering down to the point? That would be a dried poblano, more commonly called an "ancho".
re: Soul Vole
This might be blasphemy to many but … I don't think it really matters. Almost all the dried chilis that would be in the "pasilla" category (ancho, pasilla, guajillo) are all roughly handled the same way (toasted, rehydrated, puréed) and the flavors are relatively interchangeable. IMHO (first time I've used that).
I agree. Unless you are trying to follow a particular mole recipe with attention to detail, anchos and pasillas can be interchanged - with some limits
- for some uses shape matters, such if you are rehydrating and then stuffing them
- typically you will get more pulp from 10 anchos than from 10 pasillas. But on an oz by oz basis they should be about the same
- heat level is about the same
I put guajillos in a slightly different category. The skin is tougher and smoother. And the heat level is a bit higher. And color is a brighter red.
So if an recipe calls for anchos, you could use these pasillas (regardless of whether they are correctly labeled or not).
I have never heard of anchos being called pasilla, only the fresh poblano. If what you say is true, that is a complication. That said, I've only seen the chilaca pasillas labeled as pasillas for sale in packages, so I'm guessing that's the case. One thing I've learned about chiles is that you never know everything about them.
I do think there's a pronounced flavor difference between chiles, but I would agree that you're probably not going to come out with a bad dish using a different one. One of the ways I learned about chiles was by switching them out in recipes and seeing how it changed the flavor.
Here's a recipe for black mole that calls for dried pasillas, although this recipe calls them chile negro.
The naming conventions of chiles are a complex and often confusing topic, so you need to be aware of this when looking at recipes. Sometimes, mostly in California, the word pasilla refers to the fresh poblano. Generally if the recipe calls for you to rehydrate the chilis then it wants you to use what you have, which is the dried form of chilaca.
They aren't very hot/spicy but have a chili flavor instead of a "bell pepper" type flavor.
An easy starting point:
-Wipe the dried chili with a damp towel to remove any dirt/dust.
-Pour boiling water over them to cover, let sit for 10-15 minutes to rehydrate
-put in blender with tomatillos (fresh is great, canned in a pinch or out of season), salt. pepper, garlic
Use as a sauce over chicken/etc. I often add to the hot pan with the meat at the end of cooking to help thicken the sauce a little too.
Some people insist on toasting the chili in a hot skillet before rehydrating, it adds a little something so add that step if you're up for it.