Thursday, April 5, 2007

Puerco Pibil (slow-roasted pork)


The major spice used which gives the dish it's flavor and color is Annatto seeds (also known as Achiote), a hard, earthy-looking seed. (You need to get a cheap electric coffee grinder to grind the dry ingredients very finely. Use this grinder for spices only -- never for coffee.)

The dry spices (to grind):
  • 5 tablespoons of Annatto seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of pepper (black)
  • 8 allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves (little sticks)

The wet ingredients:
  • a couple of Habanero peppers -- finely chopped
    (take out the seeds and veins)
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice (bitter, if available)
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • the juice of 5 lemons
  • a splash of the finest Tequila you can find (and afford)
  • 5 pounds of pork butt

  • 4 or 5 large banana leaves
  • a large, shallow roasting pan
  • a large zip-lock bag
  • tin foil


This is a simple traditional dish of the Yucatan. Although simple, there is some preparation required. We will be making Achiote paste -- the characteristic spice that gives the dish it's unique flavor and color. You could buy prepared Achiote paste, but it is weak -- so, let's do it from scratch!
  • Measure all of the hard, dry spices into a grinder and grind them until powdered -- really pulverize them.
  • Pour the orange juice and vinegar into a blender. Add the Habaneros, the garlic cloves, and the salt. Then add the powdered spices.
  • Blend all until liquified -- the smoother, the better.
  • Then add the secret ingredients -- the juice of 5 lemons and a generous splash of the finest Tequila you can find (and afford).

OK -- now we've made the essential Achiote paste for the dish.
Time to marinate the meat.
  • Cut the pork butt into roughly 2" squares. (You don't need to be precise at all, just cut the meat up. Don't trim off any of the fat from the meat -- it moistens and flavors the dish.)
  • Place the cubed meat into a large, heavy-duty, zip-lock bag. Pour the marinade mixture, our Achiote paste, over the meat. Close and seal the bag securely, then ensure that all of the meat is covered by the marinade -- toss and manipulate the bag to cover the meat thoroughly.
  • Once all of the meat is covered with the marinade, you can proceed with the recipe -- or you could marinate the meat in a refrigerator for an hour or two, to develop the flavors some more.

  • Line a shallow roasting pan with banana leaves, leaving a good amount of the leaf hanging beyond the rim of the pan (to seal the top).
  • Pour the meat and marinade mixture onto the banana leaves in the pan. Cover the top by folding over the excess banana leaves, using additional leaves as necessary to cover the meat completely.
  • Wrap all of this up nice and tight with aluminum foil. You don't want any steam escaping, as that is how the meat cooks.
  • Roast it slowly for 4 hours in an oven set at 325 degrees F. You do not need to watch it -- just let it slow cook for 4 hours. (Go drink some of that Tequila while you wait ;-)
  • After 4 hours, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully unwrap the tin foil (the steam will be hot), then unwrap the banana leaves.
  • Serve over white or brown rice (maybe with a Jalapeno on the side).

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