Cochinita Pibil (photo)

Cochinita Pibil

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If for some reason you don’t eat all your cochinita pibil at one sitting, it will keep for several days in the fridge. Achiote is an essential ingredient for this recipe, there is no substitute.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, juice of 4-5 limes
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3 ounces of red (rojo) achiote paste, available in Latin markets
  • Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
  • Dry Mexican cheese (queso seco), for garnish
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Method

1 The night before or the morning before you plan to serve this, mix the orange and lime juice with the achiote paste and salt in a blender until combined. Be sure to rinse the blender soon afterwards, as the achiote stains. Cut the pork into chunks of about 2 inches square. Don’t trim the fat, as you will need it in the braising to come. You can always pick it out later. Put the pork in a non-reactive (glass, stainless steel or plastic) container, then pour over the marinade mixture. Mix well, cover and keep in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

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2 Cooking this takes 3-4 hours, so plan ahead. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a double layer of heavy-duty foil, or a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal. (Traditionally, cochinita pibil is wrapped in banana leaves, which add a wonderful flavor to the pibil. So, if banana leaves are available—you may be able to get them at the same store as the achiote paste, or at an Asian market—consider using them. Just heat the leaves first to make them more pliable.) Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake for at least 3 hours. You want it pretty much falling apart, so start checking at the three-hour mark.

3 When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, then shred it with two forks. You don’t have to shred the pork, but I like it this way. Pour enough sauce over the meat to make it wet.

To serve, either use this as taco meat or eat it the way we do: Over rice, garnished with cilantro, lime wedges and queso seco, a Mexican dry cheese a little like Greek feta. Pickled red onions are a traditional garnish, and if you like them, they’re good, too.

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