Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cochinita Pibil

Finally it’s summer in Barcelona. The weather threw us for a loop there for a while, raining and cold in mid-June. But now the heat has arrived and isn’t going anywhere. But I am. I’m leaving Barcelona to go back to Austin, which will be no relief from heat, and from what I hear and read, a bit hotter than here.

But this post actually has nothing to do with that, it’s just about the inaugural barbeque of the summer at our friend’s terrace which came part-way through July (delayed summer=delayed barbeque). Now when they say ‘barbeque’ here, it is not brisket, sausage, ribs, potato salad, and pie like real Texas barbeque, it’s more a way of saying ‘we’re going to use the grill and eat and drink on the deck.’ Which is just fine, I just don’t want any confusion. For this first bbq, I decided to bring a Mexican flare to it and try a traditional dish from Yucatán. I already had some achiote, the red annatto seed used to give it color, so I was ready to make cochinita pibil. I’m not much on cooking meat usually, but with a few tips and a shopping guide, all turned out well. I ended up getting shoulder/back meat, and you marinate it overnight, and slow-roast it and it turns out great. All together a pretty easy dish, if you know the right ingredients to get. Most traditional recipes roast it in banana leaves, but it does just as well double-wrapped in foil. Pickle some red onions the morning of serving it, get some fresh corn tortillas, and voila, you got your homemade, authentic Mexican Cochinita Pibil.

And you’re lucky if you have leftovers, which we surprisingly did (must have been that I also brought Velveeta and Rotel). The next day, we were all out of corn tortillas but had just enough cochinita pibil and onions to top off a salad. It made for beautiful colors and really went well with some green leaves.

Cochinita Pibil
Serves something like 8 if there is other food, if not, grab your forks quick

1 kilo pork shoulder/pork butt
About 1 c bitter orange juice: this can be from Sevilla oranges, or a mixture of lemons, limes, and grapefruits (juice of 1 grapefruit and 2 each of limes and lemons)
1 Tbsp achiote
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp oregano
12 peppercorns
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
4 garlic cloves
Pinch of dried chili

The night before you plan on serving this, lightly toast the achiote, cumin, and peppercorns in a pan over medium heat. When you smell them, take them off the heat, put in a pestle and mortar with the oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and grind to a fine powder. Now add the garlic, dried chili, a bit more salt, and the three tablespoons of the citrus juice to the powder and grind and mix until you get a paste. Word of advice: it will be very red so be careful not to stain your clothes (it will most likely stain for hands and pestle and mortar temporarily).
Line a baking dish one length with foil, but with plenty to double over itself. Do the same for the width. Now place the pork in the dish and prick all over with a fork on all sides. Pour the citrus juice over it, you should have enough that there’s a little pool within the foil. Now take the achiote paste and rub it on the pork, do one side, turn over and do the other side, making sure it’s completely covered with the paste. Fold the foil over and seal it off around the meat, then put in the fridge and leave to marinate overnight.
The next day, cook the meat at 325F/160C for about 4 hours or until it’s very fork tender. Half way through, take the meat out and baste it with the juices in the pan. When finished, remove from oven, let cool a bit and then pull apart into shreds.

Pickled Red Onions
2 red onions
citrus juice, if you have some leftover, good, otherwise make a new mixture

Slice the onions in half and then quarters, and then slice lengthwise so you come out with half-circles slices. Put in a bowl and cover with a mixture of juices and vinegar (the proportions aren’t very important, both will pickle the onions just fine), and sprinkle on some salt. Leave for at least four hours (perfect to do while you wait for the meat to cook) and stir every now and then. When they are finished, they should be a bit softer and more flexible. To assemble, on a corn tortilla place some pork and then top with the onions. Roll up and enjoy.