Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cochinita Pibil!

Hello everybody! As I promised... Today I am going to post the recipe to make the wonderfully flavorful, tasty almost heavenly "Cochinita Pibil" but first let me tell you a little bit about it:

"Cochinita Pibil" is probably the most famous dish from Yucatan, State in the Southeast of Mexico. This dish is originally cooked in a hole in the ground, people would basically make a kind of "Adobo" to season the meat (pork) then wrap it in Banana leaves and place it all in a hole previously dug for this purpose on hot stones (rocks that have been previously placed in fire). Pibil is a word in "MAYA" and it actually means "underground" This method of cooking is used in many Mexican recipes and it has pre-hispanic origins.

"Pasta de Achiote" is the main ingredient to "season" the "cochinita". There is a tree that is native of Central America and Mexico. It produces a fruit that kind of looks like a "big capsule" and when it ripens it opens and "reveals" its red seeds (annatto seeds) which are mixed with spices to make the "dark orange" paste which is used to season many extraordinary dishes. Interestingly this condiment wasn't just valued due to its flavor but it seems that "The Mayas" also used it as insect repellent and to color fabrics and some other items. It was also used as body and facial paint for some of their religious traditions and rituals. Annatto seeds are also known for their therapeutic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and healing by the formation of scar tissue.

There are some traditional steps to follow to make cochinita pibil, things that basically make it authentic. For example, to make a real cochinita pibil you need banana leaves and orange juice plus some other spices, if you find a recipe that does not call for banana leaves, orange juice or achiote then it's definitely not a good recipe. 

So, I won't make you wait any longer and here is the recipe to make a wonderful (and very easy) Cochinita Pibil:

Serves 6-8 people or MANY tacos 

  • 2.5 pounds of pork meat (it can be butt, leg or picnic roast -the one you would use to make carnitas... that's the one I used)
  • 3/4 of a bar of achiote paste (the bar should be about 4 oz. so you would use 3 of those 4) (You can find this in the hispanic or ethnic foods isle) -it might look like this (there are different brands though):
  •  Black pepper (about 1 tsp.)
  • Salt (to taste) I used about 2 tsp.
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (or PORK Lard if you can get it) - this is only needed if the cut of pork you use is not very fatty.
  • 1 cube of chicken bouillion 
  • The juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 3 Banana leaves (you can get this at any hispanic supermarket, there is at least one in your city, I am sure! and they sell these in the produce area)

For the Garnish:
  • 2 red onions (thinly sliced)
  • 4 cups of boiling water
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • dried oregano flakes (2 tsp.)
  • salt to taste
* You also need to have soft corn tortillas to go with it!

    1. Cut the meat in squares (about 2") 

    2. Blend the rest of the ingredients (except for the garnish ones) until you have a pretty smooth "sauce" and use it to cover the meat, cover it all with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so all the flavor of the sauce really impregnates the meat.

    3. Minutes before getting the meat out of the fridge, rinse the banana leaves in warm water, pat them dry and place them  in a cold oven and start it at 400 degrees, remove the leaves from the oven after about 5 minutes (or until you find that they are easier to handle and bend without tearing). - Turn down the temperature to 325F, that's the temperature you will use to bake your meat.

    4. Use the leaves to line a baking dish where the meat would easily fit (without having too much space because you'll want to make a firm bundle with the meat in the banana leaves) I used an 8x8 baking dish.

    5. Get the meat out of the fridge and place it along with the sauce in the middle of your baking dish previously lined with the banana leaves -don't worry if some of the sauce leaves the "bundle" through any crack the leaves might have, try to avoid it but don't worry if it happens- (Make sure you leave the banana leaves big enough to be outside of the edges of the dish because you will still use it all to cover your meat). "Close your bundle" by folding the edges of the banana leaves towards the meat (you can use an additional leaf of banana on top if needed to make sure it's all wrapped in banana leaves and then cover it tightly with aluminum foil.

    6. Bake for about 3 hours in the preheated oven after this time you can get it out of the oven, uncover VERY CAREFULLY because it's all HOT AND STEAMING in there. You should be able to shred it EXTREMELY easily with a fork. If it's not SUPER tender and "almost shredding on its own" you can cover it again and put it back in the oven for an additional hour.

    7. Once its ready you can uncover, finish shredding it and mix it with all the juices that are left.
      To make the garnish:
      This is VERY EASY and you can do it a few minutes before serving it all:

      Have a pot of boiling water (the 4 cups) on your stove and throw in there the sliced RED onions, leave it in the water for about 15 seconds (while gently stirring) and drain. Dress the onions with the vinegar, oregano and salt.

      You can enjoy this AMAZING dish in tacos (use soft corn tortillas) with the onions or with white rice (I had buttered rice) on the side.

      You HAVE to try this! Trust me! It is really good! Hubby had quite an experience while eating it last night! It was great to hear all the ooooh's and aaaah's while he was eating! It is very rewarding when you make a dish your family enjoys so much!



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