Cochinita Pibil (Mexico)

Cochinita ​means "little pig," so traditionally, this is a whole slow-roasted suckling pig, marinated in earthy spices and acid from the juice of bitter Seville oranges.  For home cooking, an easier path awaits, thanks to of all things, the slow cooker.

Using a pork shoulder, premade achiote seasoning, and a blend of lime, orange, and grapefruit juices will allow you to get pretty darn close to the real thing.  If you don't like pork, substitute bone-in chicken thighs.  

This recipe comes from Rick Bayless' Everyday Mexican, a cookbook I have used so much, its binding is completely broken.

Makes six servings

INGREDIENTS​​

  • a three-pound bone-in pork shoulder

  • half a 3.5 ounce package of achiote seasoning paste (easily found in Mexican groceries and increasingly some standard supermarkets - I love this stuff and use it for lot of things)

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lime juice

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh orange juice

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh grapefruit juice

  • half a one-pound package of banana leaves (found in Mexican or Asian groceries, thawed if frozen)

  • 1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick

  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced

  • salt

  • Bottles habanero hot sauce (El Yucateco is the best)

  • A slow cooker is preferred, but a good Dutch oven will do

STEPS

  1. Combine the three juices into a single blend.

  2. Break up the achiote paste into a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the citrus juice blend and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt.  With the back of a spoon, dissolve the paste in the juice to create a smooth, thick marinade.

  3. Cut two broad 2-foot strips of banana leaves and use them to line the slow-cooker: one along the length, the other across the width so that they cross in the center.

  4. Lay the pork shoulder on top of the leaves and then cover with the marinade all over and around the meat.

  5. Scatter the sliced white onion over the pork.

  6. Pour 1/2 cup (120 ml) water around the pork, and then fold the banana leaves up and over the pork.

  7. Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours.  If you are using a Dutch oven instead, cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

  8. While the meat is cooking, in a small bowl, combine the red onion slices with the remaining 1/4 cup of citrus juice.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and toss.  Cover and set aside to marinate.  (I often use a small ziploc bag instead of a bowl.)

  9. When the pork is done, use tongs to transfer it to a serving plate.  Spoon off any rendered fat that's sitting on top of the remaining juices in the pot.  If the liquid comes to more than 2 cups or so, pour it into a separate pan and reduce until it's about 1 cup, then pour it back over the meat.

  10. Serve with the marinated red onions, hot corn tortillas and your favorite habanero hot sauce!

 

Recipe adapted from Mexico Everyday by Rick Bayless

Photo by Popo le Chien

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