Mixiote. Gift of the Maguey

Through many trips south of the border and the many cookbooks on my shelves, Mexico continues to deliver the delicious and the exotic and never ceases to pique my curiosity. A market is always my first stop on a trip and I always return home heavily laden with dried herbs and chiles and cooking tools, ready to tackle another recipe.

For years I’d been reading about mixiotes, chile-marinated meats wrapped in the skin of the maguey plant, and had yet to track down the exotic wrapper in the country’s marketplaces. Until recently.
The maguey, or century plant, dots the Mexican landscape and are commonly associated with pulque, that milky lightly fermented beverage that predates mezcal. But that’s not all. The tough outer skin of each giant pointed leaf is peeled off, and used as a wrapping before the meat is pit cooked to perfection. What a thrill then, to find a bundle of the rare specimen, beautifully wrapped, while wandering the market in Jalapa.
Their texture is tough and very much like parchment paper – even stronger – and you can still see the pointed ends from the original leaf shape.
Once home, I used a Diana Kennedy recipe for mixiotes as a springboard. I created a chile paste using toasted guajillo and pasilla chilies, soaking them in a mixture of hot water and beer. The beer is a substitue for the pulque – which I couldn’t seem to locate in my neighbourhood!
Here and garlic were handground in my trusty molcajete and add to the chile mix. Blended together they became a smooth, velvety paste to be slathered over meaty beef ribs to marinate for 12 hours.
Once the maguey skin was soaked in hot water and unfurled and one rib per leaf, with extra chile marinade was gift wrapped.
Traditionally, mixiotes would be steamed-cooked in a pit, but I had to suffice with a big roasting pan and the packages elevated from the bottom with a rack and steamed with beer and water for two hours.
I served the dish with garlic mash and green beans, and allowed each guest to unwrap their gift at the table.
Completely delicious. Completely exotic.

2 Responses to “Mixiote. Gift of the Maguey”

  1. Heather Ferguson says:

    Super post! I am going to look for these in Mexico. Can you bring them over the border? Also, we have a wood fired oven and they would likely be terrific in that. Good to know and try.

    • You can bring them over the border – if you can find them. They have been deemed an endangered product and I was surprised to see them. The usual wrapping is parchment paper, which is readily available. Cheers!

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