Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cochinita Pibil Tacos are so good!

 I hadn't done any extensive braising lately so Sunday night I decided to make Cochinita Pibil Tacos.  Pibil is the Mayan word for a traditional oven, more like a shallow pit in the ground with heated stones, on top of which banana leaf-wrapped meats are cooked in the Yucatan Peninsula.   
Banana leaves are a key ingredient, but so is the Achiote Paste which is made from annatto seeds.  The seeds are mixed with other seeds and spices such as garlic, cumin and Mexican oregano then made into recados (seasoning pastes).  The above can be found at any Latino/Mexican markets.  Use with caution, the intense orange-red color of the paste can stain easily.   Banana leaves can be found frozen in most Asian grocery stores.  For my Denver friends, I buy mine at the Pacific Mercantile downtown on Larimer Street.
I lined my Le Crueset pot with banana leaves allowing enough to extend beyond the pot so I could wrap the leaves up over the pork and its marinade, thus creating a nice little bundle.
After 3 1/3 hours of cooking, I set the pork shoulder on a large cutting board and shredded the meat into bite-size pieces.  Talk about tender!  My husband kept coming into the kitchen for a samples.


       1 box of Achiote Paste (such as El Yucateca)
1 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
       1 cup fresh orange juice
  1/3 cup white vinegar
    2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
       salt, to taste
    4 lb. pork shoulder
    2 banana leaves, about 36" long
    1 medium red onion
    1 habanero pepper, thinly sliced
       cilantro, chopped
       radishes, sliced thinly 
       corn tortillas (I made my own this time)

For the Pibil:
Combine the achiote paste, 1 cup lime juice and orange juice, 1/3 cup vinegar, oregano and salt in a blender and puree until smooth.  Strain marinade through a fine-mesh sieve.  Put the marinade and pork into a large plastic bag and let rest in refrigerator for a couple of hours.   Line a 9-quart dutch oven with banana leaves. allowing the excess hang over the sides of the pot. Add the pork and its marinade.  Fold the leaves back over the pork and put the lid on.  Cook in a 350 oven until tender, about 3 to 4 hours.

For the garnish:
Thinly slice the red onion and place in a glass bowl.  Add the 1/3 cup of lime juice and massage the onions with your hand.  Season with salt.  Add the desired amount of habanero slices, remember they are extremely hot - you can always add more.  Let sit for an hour prior to serving.   

To serve:
Unwrap and place the pork on a large cutting board.    Shred into bite-size pieces and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot.  Place desired amount of pork on each tortilla topped with the pickled onion mixture, cilantro and radishes.  A slice of avocado or two may also be added.  

Serves 8 - 10.
Since I made this just for the two of us, I have put a serving size for 2 of the pork mixture into zip-loc bags and placed in the freezer to have at a later date on tortillas or for sandwiches.

Buen Provecho! 

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