Zaachila for Christmas

Christmas Day in Oaxaca was once again spent with friends gathered at a long table at La Capilla. We’ll be dining on goat barbecue, a welcome alternative to turkey any day. Okay, I lie. I love a roasted bird every now and then, but a whole roasted goat is not something I can arrange at home. Besides, I just don’t think my landlord would appreciate me digging a pit in the backyard.

It’s been four years since our last visit and the restaurant located in Zaachila, 15 km south of Oaxaca city, has seen some changes again. Besides more seating, there was a very gorgeous adobe brick oven installed to crisp up the handmade tlayudas.

They were exquisite right from the oven smeared with asiento and topped with cheese, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, tasajo and roasted fiery chile de agua.

These were followed by freshly made memelitas. See how they turn the ends of the tortilla up? To better hold the ingredients my dear.
They were the perfect things to keep us sated while we waited for the pit to be unearthed. But first the bottle of mezcal, kept warm under the pink flowered cross – to bless the whole event – was retrieved from its earthen bed. Glasses of mezcal were delivered to our party and we toasted the festivities.
The goat takes 6 – 7 hours to cook in the brick-lined pit on 800 – 900 degree heated stones.
The earth is swept away, a piece of corrugated tin removed, then the palm mat. It’s all used to insulate the oven within.
The contents in the oven are covered with a heavy layer of avocado leaves – a distinct anisey flavour enhancer – that quickly permeates the air.
A big soup pot is first removed from the pit.
A layer of steam-roasted meat held on a rack above the soup pot is removed.
It adds flavouring to the soup that contains bits of liver and heart alongside garbanzo beans, green beans, carrots, potatoes, guajillo chilies and bay laurel.
This makes a very nourishing and flavourful first course.
An avocado leaf-lined basket is pulled from the pit that contains the head and the large intestine that contains blood sausage.

Plates of goat meat and blood sausage are portioned and delivered to the table with beans, salad and hot tortillas. The meat is incredibly moist and the blood sausage incredibly rich. We’re soon groaning and leaning into each other for support.
After the meal, the delectable bits of the head are divvied up to the aficionados after the meal.

Many thanks to the Bayless family for inviting us to be a part of this wonderful Christmas tradition. It can’t be bleat!

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