Mayan-Style Pit Pork (Cochinita Pibil)
Adapted from Silvana Salcido Esparza
This recipe from the Barrio Café in Phoenix is perfect for feeding a crowd. The prep time is minimal and the results are outstanding: tender chunks of flavorful pork just begging to be bathed in salsa, topped with our Pickled Red Onions, and wrapped in warm corn tortillas. The hardest part of this dish is buying the ingredients!
What to buy: Achiote paste and banana leaves can be found in most Latino grocery stores. Banana leaves are often kept in the frozen-foods section.
If you can’t find sour oranges, use a mixture of 1/2 lemon juice and 1/2 grapefruit juice.
Game plan: Be sure to start making this a day before you want to serve it, as it needs 12 to 24 hours to marinate.
This recipe was featured as part of our Modern Potluck story.
- 3/4 cup crumbled achiote paste (about 4 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons sour orange juice, such as Seville orange (about 1 orange)
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or Italian oregano
- 1 (3-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (also known as pork butt)
- 1 large banana leaf (about 4 feet long)
- 3 medium yellow onions, quartered
- 1/2 cup water
1Combine achiote paste, juice, vinegar, garlic, and oregano in a medium nonreactive bowl and stir until well blended. Generously season pork on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the bowl with the achiote mixture and turn to coat it well, rubbing the spice mixture into any crevices. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 12 to 24 hours.
2When ready to cook the pork, remove from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
3Remove the center core from the banana leaf and run the leaf under hot tap water until it becomes soft and pliable. Pat dry with paper towels and cut in half horizontally; overlap the two pieces of leaf so that they roughly form a rectangle about 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. Place the pork on the banana leaves, fold in the left and right sides, and roll it up like a burrito to completely encase the pork.
4In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid arrange onions evenly on the bottom to form a layer. Place pork on top of the onions, with the seam of the banana leaves facing down, and pour water into the bottom of the pan, cover, and place in the oven to cook until pork is fork tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
5Place meat in a bowl and, using two forks, shred into bite-size pieces. Add onions and pan juices and stir to mix thoroughly. Serve with Pickled Red Onions, warm corn tortillas, and salsa.
Beverage pairing: Affligem Blonde, Belgium. The pork’s complex mix of flavors—sour orange, achiote, pickled onions, pork—needs both support and contrast. A good Belgian blonde beer is up to the task. It has enough complexity to stand up to the dish, but also enough austerity to not be overrun by the pork’s richness.
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