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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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
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 NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.