Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cochinita Pibil in the Slow Cooker

One of the things that I promised myself after returning from Hiatus 2015 was that I'd figure out how to make Cochinita Pibil.  It's kind of a regional specialty in the Yucatan and all the restaurants compete for the title of "Best Cochinita."  So I made it yesterday for the first time.  Here's the method:
Chicken Pibil
1. Go to a cute Mexican store.  I chose Mercado Don Pancho on Alberta because it's like a portal to another world.  Why spend so much money on a plane ticket when you can just go to the Mercado and be instantly transported to another country?  There I purchased a small package of Achiote for
$1.99.  This is a thick paste made from annato seeds, which gives it a red color, other seasonings like garlic, and corn meal to hold it all together.  I also could have picked up some super-cool blue corn tortillas there, but regrettably I passed on that opportunity.


2. Go to an asian supermarket.  This will transport you to another quadrant of the world, one that has the very distinctive scent of... jackfruit.  Have you ever gone to an asian supermarket and immediately wondered if they had something spoiling in the back?  Well, they probably just have some jackfruit in the house.  My local asian market, Hong Phat, had a mega-shipment of jackfruit come in and it was pretty amazing.  Apparently in Korea there are laws against eating the pungent fruit in public.  I don't know what it tastes like, but people who have tried it really love it in spite of everything.  I just bear with it because I bought:

- two eggplant
- baby bok choy
- two packages of noodles for Pad Woon Sen
- a can of coconut cream, future purpose unknown
- one ripe papaya
- two mangos
- 10 key limes for $1
- 1 lb. banana leaves $1.99

All for about $14.  I really just went there for the last item on my list, since I haven't seen banana leaves in Mexican stores.  But then I got really excited about all the produce.  I had been looking for ripe papaya ever since I got back from Mexico, mostly unsuccessfully.  The stuff is amazing with yogurt for breakfast, which is something I got used to (read:spoiled by) in Mexico.  I was pretty excited about my haul, even though it took me about half an hour to find the banana leaves.  After locating plantan leaves (?) in the freezer section, dried bamboo leaves near the Nori, banana flowers in the produce section, and used banana leaves wrapping some bahn in the deli, I finally decided to ask where the heck they keep banana leaves.  Answer: in a separate freezer in the noodle isle.  Okay.  So now I have banana leaves.

Yogurt with Papaya: the best breakfast in any country.  If you can find papaya.

3.  Go to QFC. After the banana leaf odyssey I went to a third store to buy a 2-3 pound pork roast ($11) because at QFC they sell pork that's natural, etc.  I also bought a large red onion (less than $1).

4.  Make cochinita pibil.  After you have travelled the world of supermarkets, making the cochinita pibil is relatively easy.  After a quick google search I found exactly the recipe I was looking for here.  There's a dutch oven version if you prefer on that link.  Here's my adaptation.

Tacos de Cochinita

Cochinita Pibil in the Slow Cooker


Line the slow cooker with:

2-3 layers (1/3 to 1/2 package) banana leaves, extra hanging over the sides

In a small bowl, blend together with a fork:

100g or 1/2 small package achiote seasoning
lime juice from 5 key limes (about 1/4 cup)
2 tsp. salt

Dribble a little of the achiote mixture on the banana leaves at the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place in the cooker:

One 2-3 pound pork shoulder roast (chicken is okay too - a half chicken is customary, or whatever parts you want)
1/2 cup water

Drizzle the rest of the achiote mixture over the top and sides of the pork.  Place on top:

3-4 rings of onion

Cover the pork with the banana leaf ends, and add more over the top if desired.  Put the lid on the cooker and cook on high for 6 hours.  (Chicken probably needs a lot less time.  2-3 hours?)  You will know it's done when the pork easily falls apart when flaked with a fork.  It should be really tender. Serve with pickled onions, below.


Pickled Onions


Cochinita Pibil - and anything else that's savory  - is usually served with pickled onions in the Yucatan.  It's pretty easy to make, but it has to pickle for several hours, so make this at the same time as you put the pork in, or the night before.

Very thinly slice:

1/2 red onion

Place onion pieces in a small bowl with:

juice from 3 key limes (about 1/8 cup)
1/2 tsp salt

Let sit for 6 hours or overnight.  It's ready when the onions turn translucent. Serve with cochinita pibil or other yucatec food.

It's customary to serve cochinita with fresh corn tortillas, but I served it on a plate with fresh gluten-free bread on the side instead.  (Then I made tacos with them the next night.)

Enjoy some authentic cochinita pibil!

Cochinita Pibil

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