The first time I tried this dish was in a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant here in Colorado. One of those places where you expect strong margaritas, runny, bland salsa and overly salted chips. I was not expecting to find a gem of an item on their menu, cochinita pibil. This was a dish fit for royalty. Tender pork shoulder marinated with spices and wrapped in tender banana leaves, then slowly cooked for hours until the pork falls apart to the touch.
Our recent move has relocated us near a Mexican neighborhood. One day I felt like exploring and visited the local mercado. I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh banana leaves and BAM! I immediately wanted to make cochinita pibil myself.
After doing some careful research, many recipes I read were very similar and seemed unexpectedly easy. You can combine your own spices and grind them fresh and I’m sure the flavors will have a bigger POW overall. I, however, took the easier route and purchased an achiote seasoning pack from my local (American) grocery store. I placed the banana leaves in a crock pot, set the pork, seasonings and a bit of citrus inside, wrapped everything up and slow cooked it for 6 hours.
As you can expect, the pork turned out tender and flavorful. We served ours with warm tortillas, rice, and all of our favorite fixin’s – fresh avocado, tangy sour cream, crisp lettuce, diced tomatoes, etc. Super easy weeknight meal (or Monday Night Football meal in our case!)
¡Cocina feliz! 🙂
P.S. I apologize for the lack of photos in this post. Unfortunately as soon as the food was served and the game came on, I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the final product.
1/2 of a 3.5-ounce package prepared achiote seasoning (available in grocery stores in the Mexican spice sections)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (divided use)
1 cup orange juice
½ shot tequila (optional)
1/2 1-pound package banana or plantain leaves
1 large white onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
Place the half package of achiote seasoning in a small bowl, pour in a 1/2 cup of the lime juice, 1 cup orange juice, ½ shot of tequila (if using) and 2 teaspoons salt; use a whisk to work everything together into a smooth, marinade.
If using banana leaves, cut 2 two-foot sections and use them to line a slow-cooker—lay one down the length, the other across the width. Add the meat and pour the marinade over and around the roast. Scatter white onion over the meat.
Pour 1/2 cup water around the meat. Fold up the banana leaves to roughly cover everything; turn on the slow cooker. Slow cook for 6 hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender (the dish can hold on a slow-cooker’s “keep warm” function for 4 more hours or so).
Use tongs to transfer the meat and onions to dinner plates. Spoon off any rendered fat that’s floating over the juices. If there is a lot of brothy sauce—two cups or more—tip or ladle it into a saucepan and boil it down to about one cup. Season with salt if needed, then spoon it over the meat. Serve with your favorites – warm tortillas, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, avocado, etc.
No Slow Cooker? In a large (6- to 8-quart, at least 12-inch diameter) heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven), assemble the dish as described, including dribbling the water around the meat. Set the lid in place and braise in a 300-degree oven for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the pork is thoroughly tender. Complete the dish as described. If there isn’t much juice in the bottom of the pan, remove the meat and add about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, scraping up any sticky bits, season with salt, then pour over the meat.