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By Richard Scott
The weeks leading up to Good Friday are the time you will find capirotada on menus around town. At Comedor Chepita, a family run lunch place in the middle of town, I ask about it after finishing a plate of Chiles Rellenos. “Oh, we’re out. Maybe call Zuquin.” Says Macamen, cook and owner. “People love it because they grew up with it. I got this recipe from my mother, who got it from her mother” she says. “Could you give it to me” I say, “leave out any secret ingredients, just basic.” “Qué basic? I would be happy to share it. And it’s simple, so there are no secret things.” (Recipe at bottom)
A lot of people tell me about their mothers’ and grandmothers’ making capirotada. I learn that it is part of Lent, the time for fasting and preparing spiritually for Easter Week for Catholics in Mexico. A Friday dish, each ingredient has a meaning. Bread represents the body of Christ, syrup the blood. Cinnamon sticks are the cross. Everyone has a story about it.
“I remember my brothers and sister ‘helping’ my mother prepare it.” says Maria. “We had to take the peanuts out of the shells. It took us a long time because we kept sneaking them to eat. My Mom never noticed. Acting of course. Her way was to put LOTS of butter on the bread. And the way the house smelled…” Maria looks out the window, as if she can see into kitchen of the home she grew up in at the Old Port, five kids at the table, waiting. “It is supposed to cool before you serve it, but we begged and begged, and my mom always gave in.”
Zuquin is a local restaurant known for catering and down home cooking. “Good afternoon, I called about..”Capirotada?” she says “we saved you the last one.” I take my prize home to share. Seems it will be perfect with some strong coffee. Heres the recipe, courtesy of Restaurant Comedor Chepita.
– Add one cone of piloncillo (Mexican Brown sugar) to boiling water. When it dissolves, add butter to make a syrup.
– While this boils, chop the fruit: typically dried pineapple, green apples, prunes, and plátanos machos.
– In a baking dish, place torn up bread (French bread, pan dulce, white, any kind you like). Cover with the fruit and pour on the syrup.
– Add queso fresco, top with raisins and peanuts.
– Bake for 45 minutes
– Cool and then refrigerate before serving…. Or not.. ENJOY!