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!

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