This Capirotada recipe evolved from a medieval Spanish staple

Back in the Middle Ages, sugar was in much less supply than now, and the first versions of capirotada were not sweet (or suitable for fasting, when many avoid meat). in El Libre de Koch, One of the first cookbooks for Spanish cuisine, this caperotada recipe includes lamb broth, toast, and cooked partridge breasts, not to mention sugar. later book, El Libro de Guisados, He describes a caperotada recipe that does not contain meat, but does require some sugar. “Sugar was considered a spice and used as such in savory dishes,” says Ana M. Gomez Bravo, Ph.D., professor of Spanish at the University of Washington, who has studied the history of food in the region. “It was very expensive and would only have been used in the kitchens of the very wealthy.”

This dish likely made its way to North America when Hernán Cortés colonized what is now Mexico in the early 1500s. (By the way, it is rumored that Cortes killed one of his enemies with a poisoned caperotada.) Over the following hundreds of years, the dish slowly evolved from a salty dish to a sweet one. One 19th-century cookbook includes a meat-rich recipe, while the follow-up book in the series contains a recipe for “capirotada dulce para vigilia” (Lenten sweet capirotada). But that last recipe still has onions and garlic sautéed in butter with “a little sugar to suit the tastes of your guests.”

Nearly 100 years later, we’re starting to see recipes for caperutada that call for a much greater use when it comes to sugar. One version calls for two full cups of piloncillo along with delicious ingredients like tomatoes and onions. The sweet, savory ingredient mix in some of these age-old recipes for capirotada makes sense in the context of a kitchen famous for a dish like mole Poblano. Jeffrey Belcher, Ph.D., professor at the University of Toronto, and author of . explains Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Cuisine. “Things like raisins, other dried or fresh fruits, and nuts can be mixed together in a large saucepan with meat and other flavorful ingredients. Mole is kind of an example of a culinary style that has survived.”

Unlike mole, caperotada made the final transformation from salty to sweet. “Cookbooks have two versions of a lot of dishes,” Belcher says. “You had your meat version and then your ‘de vigilia’ of Lent, and that seemed to be one of those dishes that ended up favoring the Lent version.”

These days, most capirotada recipes are undoubtedly sweet and usually served for dessert. My family members are still praying – my aunt brings Caperutada the way her aunt taught her when she was little, and she’s planning to make it this year, a tradition that has made its way from Mexico to Chicago, where most of my family lives.

Angie Horta, owner of La Estancia and my mom’s neighbor in the Mexican suburb of Guadalajara, serves a sweet version of capirotada at the restaurant during Lent, the only time of year she makes it. “I’ve had savory versions before, outside of Lent, and I just don’t like them,” she says. “For me, it’s just a sweet dish.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *