Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cochinita Pibil - Pork Drunk in the Yucatan

Cochinita Pibil is a Mexican pork dish that originated from the Yucatan peninsula. It is traditionally made incorporating a suckling pig, cochinita literally meaning whole suckling pig. Pibil translates to pit which is how the food was originally prepared, baby pig roasted underneath the ground. Tacos de cochinita pibil are found in Yucatan from los calles to los playas.
This dish features achiote seasoning and citrus juices.

The achiote used here is a paste. It is made from ground annatto seeds. The paste lends a brick-red color to the pork. It is mixed with other seasonings such as Mexican oregano, thyme, and pepper.

A citrus blend is added to the spices. Traditionally, the juice from Seville Oranges are used to marinate the pork. It has a bitter taste to it. You can mimic the flavor of Seville oranges by combining the juice of grapefruits, the rind of grapefruit, and orange juice. You can also combine lemon or lime juice to also achieve similar bitterness. The acid helps break down the pork while cooking.

Blend the citrus juices and the seasonings together to achieve a nice consistency.

Marinate the pork for 12 hours to overnight. I used an syringe to inject the blend into the pork to spread the marinade. You can also cut the pork into two inch chunks to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.

Another key ingredient to Cochinita Pibil is the use of banana leaves. The banana leaves keep the pork moist and adds a sweet aroma to it. It also provides a visual presentation to the dish.

I used a slow cooker to roast the pibil. Place banana leaves and completely cover the interior of the slow cooker.

Place the pork inside and pour the marinade around and on top of the pork.

Hot yellow peppers are also widely used with this dish in the Yucatan. Hungarian Wax or Banana Peppers work well. Simply split, devein, and seed the peppers and place cut side down.

After 8-9 hours of slow-roasting, it should be done. It is hard to wait that long since the Pibil’s cooking aromas drive the mind crazy. Look at it, isn’t is Beautiful? Mas bonita!

The juices can be reserved and cooked into a gravy or sauce to accompany the pork.

Serve with pickled red onions and habanero salsa. The pickled red onions give it that much-loved vinegar kick and bite and a small pinch of the fiery hot habanero salsa really adds a jolt to the pork. A must add component.

Cochinita Pibil, Achoite Pork, Puerco Pibil, whichever name you use, is a fantastic dish to create. There are many ways to prepare it and many different versions but all lead to the final destination of big flavors.

Buen Provecho!

Comer, Beber, y ser Feliz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"..but please bring back my Kishka."

Lyrics from a song titled “Who Stole the Kishka” a traditional polka tune.

Kishka is a blood sausage made with pig’s blood, buckwheat grouts, and a mashing of pork products like skin, intestines, etc.

The sausage is popular here in the Midwest where a lot of the Polish people emigrated.

Blood sausage is usually messy prep work. Not one for the faint of heart.

A quick pan fry will break down the kishka coins into a ground meat consistency. It isn’t the most appealing-looking but the taste makes up for its suggested appearence.

Served with fried potatoes garnished with Rosemary.

The salty potato forked with the mashed Kishka is a pleasing bite. It tastes similar to Liver Sausage.

Pan-Fried whole, the kishka softens up but once cut, the blood sausage oozes onto the plate. Served here with quick-fried sauerkraut.

The power bite combination of potato-kishka-sauerkraut was most satisfying. Only if I had a quality Polish beer like Zywiec, it would have completed my lunch.

Beer, Polka, and Kishka, the trifecta of Midwestern heritage!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Vera Cruz sandwich


This type of sandwich or torta can be found on the streets or in restaurants in Vera Cruz and in Puebla. It can be used as a antijito, a mexican snack to satisfy a craving, or a main dish.

The Pambazo is made from using Bollilo bread, dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce, and filled with a guiso (a filling). The guiso can be shredded chicken, pulled pork, or grilled vegatables. The guiso I used is papas con chorizo or Potatoes and Chorizo.

To make the Red Guajillo Pepper Sauce, use:

Boil the tomatoes, spices, and chiles until soft while you are cooking the potatoes for the guiso. When potatoes are done, set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, grate a medium-sized onion and mix with crushed garlic.

Liquefy the tomato mixture in a blender and strain through a colander or food mill.

To finish off sauce, saute onion and garlic in corn oil for a few minutes and add to the sauce, cook for about 15 minutes to marry the flavors.

In another pan, cook the chorizo and fresh-cut onions together. Remove any extra fat from the bottom of the pan. If the chorizo is lean, add a little oil. After a few minutes, add the potatoes. Saute for a few minutes.

To assemble the Pambazo, cut open the bolillo but not all the way. Dip the bread into the Red Guajillo Pepper sauce. At this point, you can quick fry the bread in a skillet to seal in the flavors of the sauce.

Garnish the Pambazo with fresh avocado, lettuce, and cheese.

The Pambazo is packed with flavor and is definitely a delectable sight. It goes well with a Mexican cerveza.

You can skip using the sauce if you like and still have a tasty torta. It is an easy and quick dish to cook and not too spicy so it is kid-friendly.

Gracious Vera Cruz!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wrapped Pork Tenderloins

Pork on Pork, pig on pig, wrapping up tenderloins is a gluttonous adventure. Simple to prepare and cook while the results are mind-blowingly amazing and pleasing. I’ve always wanted to wrap up cuts of meat to add extra flavor and another dynamic to the dish. No better way then with Bacon & Proscuitto!

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel and Apricots

The Tenderloin is lightly salted and peppered while fresh thyme and rosemary round out the earthy tones. Center Cut Bacon is wrapped around the tenderloin which holds all the herbs in. It also adds amazing flavoring for the rendering bacon fat.

The Apricots become carmalized during the roasting process and turn out less sweet than anticipated. This creates a wonderful combination of sweet & savory.

Using a cast iron skillet added another dimension to the dish. It creates a flavorful crust on the bacon, fennel, and apricots.

Reserve the cooking liquid at the bottom of the skillet. That is all the flavor from the caramalizing apricots, fennel juices, rendered bacon fat. It would be a great addition to pan frying eggs or potatoes another day.

Overall, a very satisfying dish and an easy, quick one to cook. You can’t go wrong with Bacon.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Bartlett Pears and Sweet Potatoes

Another ode to Sweet & Savory.

I wrapped the tenderloin with Black Forest Proscuitto and drizzled it with honey. I did not salt the tenderloin as the proscuitto has a strong salty flavor. Also, proscuitto can dry up when cooking at a lengthy time, so be aware of your cook time and temp.

Before the tenderloin was added to the roasting pan, the Bartlett pears and Sweet Potatos were salt and peppered, mixed with olive oil, and partnered with a bouquet of thyme sprigs. It was roasted for about 15 minutes. The pork was added and roasted for another 20-23 minutes.

The result was definitely satisfying though not as tasty as the Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin. Pears pair well sweet potatoes. The roasting process tenderizes the fruit and vegatable and it all comes together in a power bite with the proscuitto and pork.

Both version of Wrapped Pork are spectacular and just one of many ways to execute the wrapped method. Side it with appropriate flavors and wash them down with a quality libation. You can do no Wrong!