Thursday, July 15, 2010

Achiote marinated pork butt - COCHINITA PIBIL (Yucatan, mexico)

This recipe is inspired by the mighty cochinita pibil of Yucatan. Typically a whole pig is cooked in an undergound pit after being marinated in achiote and wrapped in banana leafs.

The version below is something easy to make in any home with ingredients quite widely available.
Preparation: marinade a full pork butt -skin on (also known as boston butt or pork shoulder) in a mixture of achiote paste and lime juice overnight in the refrigerator. Achiote paste is typically sold as a dense, red brick in the spice section of most mexican markets (the intense red color comes from comes from its main component, anatto seeds). Before use, dissolve the brick in abundant lime juice (i.e. in a blender) to create a smooth marinade. When ready, score the skin deeply with a knife and place the butt -skin side up- on a grid (similar to what you would use to cook a turkey) suspended about 1" from the bottom of a larger, oven proof casserole. Pour any extra marinade at the bottom of the casserole, diluting it with a little water, so as to always keep 1/2" of liquid at the bottom during cooking (this will keep the meat moist: be careful to add extra water from time to time to prevent the juices from burning!). Cook the butt in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender and the skin brown and crispy-delicious. Let cool for a while, remove the crispy skin (which can be served as a side) and separate the flesh into morsel-size bites with the help of two forks (much as you would to prepare 'pulled pork'). Finally, pour some of the cooking juices back onto the pulled pork, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, squeeze a couple of limes on it and serve this veritable pile of goodness with warm corn tortillas.

Side dishes: some of our favorite side dishes include

-Thin-sliced red cabbage, for the crisp.

-Pink onions: easy to make and quite spectacular. Steep thinly sliced red onions in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, add a pinch of salt and cover with lime juice. Refrigerate. I bet the result will surpise you for its fresh taste and amazing color.

-Tomatillo salsa: Roast 5-6 husked tomatillos (a relative of physalys, available at mexican grocers) and 2 jalapeno peppers under the grill until blistered and slightly blackened. Peel and seed the jalapenos (this is easyer if they are left to steam into a zip-top bag for a couple of minutes after roasting). Blend tomatillos, jalapenos, a pinch of salt and a splash of cider vinegar until smooth. The sauce is now ready to serve warm or cold.


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