Monday, November 23, 2009

Steaming meat packages, also known as mixiotes...

I just got back last night from visiting two northern colonial silver mining towns (enough adjectives for you?), Guanajuato and Querétaro. I’ll post sometime this week once I’ve had a chance to edit the photos. It feels good to be home, even though I'm spending today cleaning up the apartment and doing laundry. In the meantime, here’s a recipe and a post I meant to put up before I left for this trip.

In the midst of everything going on for Día de los muertos came Sr. Canal’s birthday. His special request was mixiotes.

Mixiotes are defined as chile-seasoned meat steamed in maguey parchment (I wrote about them after eating them at two novenarios). The maguey parchment is the transparent skin removed from the maguey leaf. However, this harvesting is now illegal because the leaves used tend to be the younger leaves, which can kill the plant. Parchment is now often substituted. I prefer Sra. Zanella’s method of using individual plastic baggies, which are easily tied off with a knot instead of having to tie up parchment squares. 

Recipe from the Canal family.
Makes approx. 30 mixiotes. Expect each person to eat 1-2 mixiotes.
As Sipsy from Fried Greene Tomatoes would say, “secret’s in the sauce,” so try to use freshly ground whole spices if possible. We ground the spices in Sr. Canal’s grandmother Sara’s molcajete, but a coffee grinder would work well as a substitute.

This recipe also works well with chicken, especially thighs and drums, a variation I had at one novenario. After doing a little research, I found that a combination of bay leaves and cracked anis seed is recommended as a substitute for the avocado leaves. Sra. Zanella normally cooks her mixiotes in a tamale steamer outside on a wood carbon fire, but this time we cooked them inside on the stove. The water seemed to evaporate more quickly, requiring a little more attention.

5 kg mutton, with bone, cut into 2-3 inch squares

¼ kg chiles guajillo, wiped clean

½ kg chiles ancho, wiped clean (use red for less spice, black for more spice)

2 heads of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbs. whole cumin
1 small piece Mexican cinnamon (substitute 1 tsp. ground cinnamon)
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tbs. oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme
10 avocado leaves (3 ground, 7 roughly chopped)
½ cup mild vinegar
salt to taste

Remove seeds and veins from dry chiles, slicing them along one side to do so. Wear gloves if your hands are sensitive, as even dried chiles can leave you with burning, tingling hands for hours. Either way, wash your hands after cleaning the chiles. Burning sensations are rarely a good thing. Put the chiles in a pot of boiling water and leave them to boil for 15 minutes or until softened.

Meanwhile, grind the cumin, cinnamon (if not already ground), cloves, oregano, bay leaf, and thyme in a molcajete or coffee grinder. 

Blend the softened chiles, spices, garlic, 3 of the avocado leaves and vinegar. You will have to blend the ingredients in two batches. Add the water in which the chiles were boiled to aid in blending and to reach desired consistency, about the consistency of tomato paste.

Add the sauce to the meat and remaining 7 avocado leaves, making sure to cover all the meat well. Leave the meat in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, place 2-3 pieces of meat in small individual plastic baggies, making sure to include extra sauce and a few pieces of avocado leaf in each. Twist and knot baggies. Poke each baggie with a needle 5-6 times to ensure steam does not rupture them.

Place mixiotes in large tamale steamer. First, line the bottom with a plastic grocery sack to ensure bottom mixiotes do not burn. Cover the mixiotes with a wet cloth. Cover that with a plastic bag, tucked in well along all sides to trap steam. Cover and place on high heat on stove. Once you can hear water boiling, lower to medium-low heat. Cook for 3 hours, checking periodically to ensure there is still water in the bottom of the steamer. A good tip I learned from Sra. Zanella is placing a small coin such as a dime in the water. When the coin clinks, there is still water boiling. When it stops clinking, the water has evaporated. I would check at least every hour. After 3 hours, open one baggie and check tenderness. If not yet tender, add 20-minute intervals to cooking time.

Serve with Mexican rice, corn tortillas and avocado. Sr. Canal and Bush like to mush everything together and spoon the delicious medley into their mouths with the tortillas. 


  1. Every recipe you post looks amazing. I can't wait to try it.

  2. this is a very in depth recipe ms. brants. i think even i could make it.

  3. Thank you both! I'm sure you could, Roy, it's actually fairly simple. The hardest part is waiting over three hours, smelling the fragrant steam. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to copy Sra. Zanella's recipe, as well as add more in depth instructions watching her in action.

    Uncle Peary, it's pronounced mee-she-ote. Some pronounce a harder 'x' sound, but the easiest and most common pronunciation is the one above. And for the rest of my family in Texas, 'ote' not with a hard Texas 'e,' as in 'goatee' but 'e' as in 'elephant.'