Saturday, February 12, 2011


What better way to spend Christmas than to join in on a fiesta, and what better fiesta than one devoted to barbeque or in Mexico barbacoa. For Mexicans barbacoa means a pit cooked lamb or goat. For this barbacoa goat is the choice and the restaurant is La Capilla. La Capilla, located in Zaachila,specializes in barbacoa. How good is La Capilla, it’s been Rick Bayless’ choice at Christmas for 20 years. What does one of the guidebooks say, it’s a large outdoor place catering to bus tours. Who are you going to believe? La Capilla has a large outdoor space with numerous long thatched roof sheds, a kids play area, parrots, monkeys, hammocks, and barbacoa pits. If your thinking southern style barbeque pits, think again. These above ground pits replicate the time honored technique of digging a hole, putting some rocks in the bottom, building a big fire, then when the fire burns down throwing the meat in, covering it then coming back in half a day. It is much trickier than that and La Capilla has it all sorted out. The pit at La Capilla is above ground made of abobe. The ‘hole’ is about 3x6 and around 3 feet deep surrounded by about 4 feet of abobe on all sides. A fire gets built in the pit for some 8 to10 hours reaching 700 to 800 degrees fahrenheit. The goat has been taken apart before going into the pit, a blood pudding made using the stomach as a container, a pot of soup with the ribs seasoned with adobo balanced on top and the head whole. All this then gets covered with avocado leaves, a straw mat, a sheet metal lid, and earth for insulation. Now wait 6 hours. Nice that there’s someone who is willing to do this for you.

This fiesta starts at the end of that last 6 hours. La Capilla has buried a bottle of mescal (or two) in the dirt above the goat so we begin with a toast to the goat. Next comes the uncovering. The restaurant staff take the goat to be divided and plated and we sit down to beer, mescal, memelas (soft tortillas spread with asiento, black beans and queso fresca), and tlayudas (large toasted blue corn tortillas with asiento, black bean, chorizo, tasajo, tomato, and avocado). So what’s this asiento stuff? It’s the stuff from the bottom of the pot when you render lard. Next up is the soup, then the main plate of goat, blood sausage or Morcilla, more beans, and vegetables. Don’t forget to save room for dessert.

If you want to try this at home Rick Bayless has a book, Fiesta at Rick's and a video featuring barbacoa to start you on your way. For more pictures please check out my Picasa web album.

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