Cochinita Pibil

Pork shoulder is the great unheralded cut of meat. And one of the least expensive in the market. Plus, it’s usually huge and you can feed a party. Cochinita Pibil is a specialty of the Yucatan in Mexico, where an entire pig is marinated in citrus juices and achiote paste, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven. You can do it in your own above-ground oven with part of a pig. The shoulder. You’ll need to find some achiote paste, which you can get at Mexican markets or google it online.

This dish should serve 6 – 8 people. Or serve it to fewer people and save leftovers for more tacos or to make tortas (see “World’s Best Sandwich” post).

1 pork shoulder, 3-5 lbs.
1/2 small brick of achiote paste (or about 3 tbsp)
juice of two oranges and three limes
salt & pepper
flour tortillas
red onion
habeñero peppers

So the day before you want to eat your meal, salt up the pork shoulder, and cut into big chunks. (If there’s a bone, the the bone chunk be one of the chunks.) Dissolve the achiote paste in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the three limes — this will require some serious mashing with either your fingers or the back of a spoon. Toss pork into the mixture and put in the fridge to marinate. You can also make the red onion salsa the day before — slice the onion thinly, toss with the juice from the other orange and put in a covered bowl in the fridge.

The morning of the Pibil, you’ll need some banana leaves. If you live in a warm place, you might be able to go pick some. If not, you can often get them frozen at a Mexican or Asian market. If you can’t figure out where to get them, you can use foil instead. About five hours before you wanna eat, turn the oven on to 250. Line an earthenware baking dish or some other cooking vessel with banana leaves, put the pork into the leaves, and wrap the hanging part of the leaves over the top so the pork is entirely covered. Cover top with foil. (If you don’t have leaves, just put the pork in the baking dish and cover with foil.) Let cook for 4 to 5 hours.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, turn the grill on. (If you don’t have a grill, heat a pan over medium-high heat.) Brush the tortillas with a little oil or lard, and grill quickly until they are hot and beginning to bubble. Place on a clean dishtowel and wrap them up to keep warm. Grill the habañeros until the skin begins to blacken and blister. Place your onion salsa in a nice looking bowl with a spoon. Bring the cochinita pibil to the table, set on a hot plate, and unwrap for all to see and ooh and ahh. Let each person scoop some pork into tortillas with a little onion salsa and maybe a pinch of habañero if they dare. (Note, this is the recently dethroned “hottest pepper in the world”. The new hottest pepper is some Indian pepper… but this is still pretty dang hot.)

Beverage suggestion: Cold Mexican beer, sangria, crisp white wine such as sauvignon blanc

4 Comments (+add yours?)

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