Found Recipes: Mexican Pig Cookies



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To mark Cinco de Mayo, NPR revisits a "Found Recipes" story from Washington, D.C.-based Mexican cook, Pati Jinich. For years she'd heard about these soft, cakey cookies cut out in the shape of pigs.

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We cannot Cinco de Mayo pass without circling back to the ALL THINGS CONSIDERED archives for this - a found recipe that became a true find for one Mexican chef.

PATI JINICH: Hi, I'm Pati Jinich. I'm here in my kitchen in Chevy Chase, Md., and I'm going to tell you the story of the piggy cookies.

BLOCK: Piggy cookies, sweetened with dark brown sugar and honey, spiced with cinnamon, they're cookies cut out in the shape of a pig, and they puff when you bake them.

JINICH: You know, they're like a cross between a cookie and a sweet roll.

BLOCK: Making piggy cookies is one of the ways Pati Jinich reconnects her family to her home country. She's a political analyst turned culinary ambassador with a cooking program at the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, D.C. She's also a food blogger, a go-to person for other Mexican expatriates who are hungry for home and looking for regional recipes. But every so often, Jinich gets stumped by a request, and that's where her story about piggy cookies begins.

JINICH: So I got this request for a cochinito, which in Mexico translates to little pig. And at first, I was like, what on earth is a piggy cookie? I've never heard about a piggy cookie.

As soon as I got that request I started getting more requests, but it was for a marranito. And then I got a request for cerdito, cochito, and they're all different ways to call the pig in Mexico. I started asking my family, my friends. Nobody knew about, it. Other friends that were cooks, nobody knew about it, so I was like, what is this mystery cookie?

After a couple of years, I was traveling with my husband. We were driving from Mexico City to Jalisco. We stopped at a gas station. And as my husband filled the gas, I saw there was a little tiny stand with a woman and she was selling what seemed to be bread, like, really fluffy breads. And what do I see? They're piggy-shaped. I was ecstatic.

They just taste so sweet in a mellow way and comforting 'cause they are so puffy and fluffy and like nothing I had ever tasted before. But at the same time, it tasted to me like my home country.

Once I found one, I started finding them everywhere, but not in Mexico City or Jalisco or the big cities, but in, like, small little stores of little towns in places. And I didn't have a recipe because everybody cooks just by eye. Like, you add a little, you mix a little; you add a little, you mix a little.

I came back home and started messing around with recipes. Once that I nailed it down I sent it to the people that had requested it. And I got such beautiful emails back.

I mean, not only did it enrich my home and my family because my kids adore these cookies, but it also - it brought me closer to my home country 'cause I'm learning all these things that I didn't know and I'm trying all these recipes that I didn't know when I was there.

BLOCK: That's Pati Jinich. She's the author of "Pati's Mexican Table," and you can find her recipe for piggy cookies on the Found Recipe page at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.