Cochinita Pibil

Traditional pibil cooking from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula calls for marinating in a blend of achiote paste, citrus, and spices before the[ little pigs (or cochinitas) are wrapped in fragrant banana leaves and lowered into a carefully built, banana leaf-wrapped pit called a pibe. This is our adaptation for the American kitchen of a dish we first tasted in Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan.]

Total Time:
7 hr 40 min
Prep:
30 min
Inactive:
4 hr 10 min
Cook:
3 hr

Yield:
8 to 10 servings
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup achiote paste or annatto seeds
  • 10 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 8 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds pork butt, cut into 3-inch cubes
  • 1 pound banana leaves, softened over low flame, or aluminum foil
  • 2 white onions, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 4 Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, and sliced into strips
  • Pickled Shallots, for serving, recipe follows
Directions

In a medium bowl, mash together the achiote paste, garlic, orange juice, lime juice, bay leaves, cumin, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper with a fork. Add the pork and toss to evenly coat. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat. Char the onions until blackened on both sides. Then char the tomatoes on both sides. Reserve.

Line a large baking dish with 1 layer of banana leaves or foil. Arrange the pork in an even layer and top with the onions, tomatoes, chiles, and all the marinade. Cover with more banana leaves and wrap the dish tightly in foil.

Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the pork is tender and moist. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes. Unwrap and serve with Pickled Shallots.

Pickled Shallots:

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 teaspoons red chili flakes

2 tablespoons kosher salt

20 medium shallots, peeled

Combine the vinegar, wine, sugar, mustard seeds, peppercorns, chili flakes, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the shallots and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely in the liquid. Transfer the shallots and all their liquid to a jar or plastic container. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


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