Christmas Dinner with a Twist: Yucatecan cuisine is the delicious result of a culinary mix that combines Mayan, European, Caribbean and Cuban influences. The culinary delights of the region are made of an exquisite blend of Mexican and European flavors, favoring the use of pork and chicken for their traditional recipes.
A bit of history will explain the strong European influence: the Yucatan Peninsula was considered inaccessible and far from the rest of Mexico, there were only a few roads and they were very dangerous. Most of the commerce and transportation was made using ships with cultural and commercial dealings with Europe, New Orleans and Cuba; influencing the Yucatecan clothing, architecture and cuisine.
If you want to celebrate your Christmas dinner with a twist, why not prepare the most traditional dish in the Peninsula?
We present: Cochinita Pibil, a Yucatecan delight that requires very little prep and will surprise all your guests with the delicacy of the flavors and the juiciness of the meat.
Christmas Dinner with a Twist: Cochinita Pibil
Ingredients (servers 10 – 12):
– 2 leaves of banana, you need to roast them on the stove so they become softer (you can get them in your local supermarket, they are big folded green leaves)
– 1 ½ kilo or 3.3 pounds of pork leg
– ½ kilo or 1 pound of pork loin with rib
– 200 grams or 7 ounces of achiote seasoning (sold in every supermarket, outside of Mexico buy it online or in Latin stores)
– 1 cup sour orange juice or mix half vinegar and half fresh orange juice
– ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
– ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– You might add coarsely ground allspice to taste
– 3 cloves garlic smashed
– ½ teaspoon chili powder
– Salt to taste
– 125 grams or 4.4 ounces of lard/ butter
– 8 radishes well washed and finely chopped
– 1 small red onion, finely shredded
– 4 habanero peppers finely chopped
– ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
– 1 cup sour orange juice
– Salt to taste
- Get a baking dish big enough to hold the meat and cover it with the roasted banana leaves, leaving it long enough to wrap the meat.
- Place the meat pieces in the baking dish and use the leaves to cover everything well.
- Dissolve the achiote paste in the sour orange, then add the spices and pour this mix on the meat.
- Marinate the pork for at least eight hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Once you are ready to cook the pork, melt the lard or butter and make sure to cover all the meat, rewrap the banana leaves and cover with foil.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 175 °C or 350 °F for 1½ hours, the meat has to be so soft that almost falls apart.
- Shred the meat with a fork and serve with the sauce and plenty of tortillas!
1. Mix all the ingredients and let them marinate for at least three hours.
Use a piece of banana leave to cover the bottom of a serving dish, place the Cochinita on top and garnish with some red onion or cilantro leaves.
Hints and tips:
Remember that habanero is an extremely hot chili, you need to warn your guests and let them add the sauce to taste, accompanied by corn tortillas.
One of the beauties of Cochinita Pibil is that is not only a very popular dish, but also the leftovers can be eaten in tacos, tortas, fried tacos and so on.
Also, some people prefer to cook the Cochinita in the slow cooker, which is possible by lining the cooker with the banana leaves. Then you need to pour ½ cup water around the meat, fold up the banana leaves to roughly cover everything, then turn on the slow-cooker. Slow-cook for 6 hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender (the dish can be held on a slow-cooker’s “keep warm” function for an additional 4 hours).
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