Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Okeechobee, Fla
Cochinita Pibil is a dish from the Yucatan of achiote paste-marinated pork cooked in banana leaves--Yucatec Q, so to speak. There it is often cooked in pits in or on the ground. Here, a banana leaf-lined baking pan is often used; the pork gets covered with more leaf, the pan covered in foil, and baked in the oven. This is a version using the WSM.
Cochinita Pibil starts with making an achiote paste (recado rojo). You can often buy this paste already made but I much prefer making it myself for best flavor. Pastes can vary in ingredients and you can vary the ones you use to make it; for instance, I did not use cinnamon in the paste for this version (and often don't) because of how I serve it and what I served it with. Allspice is in some versions of recado rojo as well.
Cochinita Pibil is often served with a salsa made with habaneros and I often do this. The other day I just served it on homemade tortillas with pickled onions on top, with salsa-topped avocado chunks on the side. Pickled red onions are traditional (I had yellow), but I highly recommend pickled shallots.
This recipe is enough for 4 lbs of pork. I used pork cut from the blade that were 4x2x1-inch pieces. I recommend using butt (though the blade was good) cut in 2x2x2 chunks.
If desired, double or triple this recipe (you can also make the paste in advance); form the paste into balls or disks, allow to dry a bit, then wrap in plastic and store in the fridge.
Achiote seeds are very hard. They can take a while to grind in an electric mill--grind very well. I put the ground spices in a small, fine-mesh strainer and sift the spices, pressing the powder into the mesh with my fingers, and then discard any larger pieces that didn't get ground fine enough. There shouldn't be many. If so, re-grind.
3 T achiote seeds
2 small bay leaves
1 T coriander seeds
1 T black peppercorns
1 t cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
4 t dried Mexican oregano
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 t salt
1 small ripe (red) hot or mild pepper, fresh--or rehydrated if dried (I used a fresh cherry pepper), or 2-3 T Ancho, Guajillo, NM or other chile powder (optional)
2-4 T sour orange juice
Grind the achiote seeds and sift into as noted above; put in a small bowl. Grind the next 6 ingredients, sift, and combine with the achiote powder; mix well. Add the chile powder if using; mix well. With a mortar and pestle mash the garlic with the salt, add the fresh or rehydrated pepper, if using, then gradually work in the powdered spices, mashing all the while. Add the sour orange juice a little at a time till a smooth, thick paste forms. Dry and store as noted above or continue making the marinade.
Using more sour orange juice (I also used pineapple vinegar as well), mash the paste, adding the juice a little at a time until the paste is thinner but still a paste, about like peanut butter; add a little olive oil and water--about 2-3 t each--mix in. Adjust consistency with more juice or vinegar or water till the marinade is like thin peanut butter.
Put the meat (about 4 lbs for this amount of paste) in a Ziploc and pour in the paste. Close the bag and mash the paste into the meat through the bag. Stick it in the fridge or the day (at least 5 hours).
The In-Leaf Topping (optional)
You do not need to do this but I recommend it and it's easy. The tomato and onion cook down on top of the pork and add to the flavor.
3-4 medium Roma tomatoes, sliced 3/8-1/2" thick
2-3 small yellow onions, peeled, sliced 3/8" thick
Sometime before you're ready to pull the meat out of the fridge (you can do this early), heat a dry pan over high heat till very hot. Lay a few rounds of onion and/or tomato in the pan and sear till charred in spots; flip and char the other sides; remove and reserve. Repeat till all tomato and onion slices are charred. Do not crowd the pan when doing this.
Banana Leaves/Wrapping the Meat
Lightly toast your banana leaves over an open flame to make them more pliable. I used 5 and had 4-5 pieces of 4x2x1 meat/leaf. Lay some of the meat in the middle of the leaf (I just pull it out of the Ziploc and stick it on the leaf, no wiping of the meat), top with some charred onion and tomato, fold up the narrow ends, fold over the sides, and tie in 2-3 places with kitchen twine just tight enough to keep things together, it is okay if the meat is slightly exposed here and there. (Cutting the twine to length in advance is helpful if you are doing this alone.)
I used hickory. Pecan or a milder wood would be suitable as well. I suggest using the same amount as you would for ribs and seeing if that works for you. (I used a bit more than that and it worked well for me.) I had 5 banana packs of meat. I did 3 on top, 2 on the bottom.
[I set up with the MM but had to leave before my temps hit the target. Also, it started raining. Not wanting to overshoot, I decided to wing it on the vent settings, set them, and left. Temp was 215 lid and was the same when I returned 4.5 hours later. The meat was done perfectly nevertheless! Luck. If I was home I would have cooked at 235-245 lid, and it would have taken less time. Best to check after a few hours anyway. You're looking for fall-apart meat essentially, whatever the texture you normally like for butt works well.]
Remove the packs from the cooker when done and allow to rest 10 min.
Remove the meat from the leaves. Pull or chop or do a combination of the two (I like it large-chunky). Pile it on a platter or on individual serving plates on top of (or alongside) corn tortillas. Top with a little salsa, if using, or the pickled onions, or serve the onions on the side.
To make your own: Peel a medium red or yellow onion or a few shallots. Slice in half crosswise, lay cut-side down, and slice as thinly as possible. Put the onions in a small pot and pour enough water in to come halfway up the sides of the onion (not the pot). Add vinegar (I used pineapple but red wine, white wine, balsamic, rice, sherry--any are good, or a combo of vinegar and sour orange juice) till the onions are just covered. Add a pinch of dark brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium-low and simmer 10 min. Pour the onions and the liquid into a bowl, allow to cool, then chill till serving time. Lift the onions out of the vinegar (allowing a few drops of juice to drizzle on the pork here and there); put on the plate; serve.