Out of all the dishes in the Yucatan Peninsula, I think this is the dish that is best known throughout the whole country. Cooked with Achiote (Annato paste) and sour orange juice, the slow roasted pork meat was traditionally buried in a pit, hence the word “Pibil”, meaning “buried” in Mayan. It is really easy to make at home, you can do it in an oven bag, slow cooker, or even in your pressure cooker. I tried those 3 ways of cooking and had great results with all of them. It is ideal to serve with hand-made tortillas and habanero pepper sauce. You can also cook it ahead of time and just reheat it before serving. Leftovers freeze very well, too.
I still remember in my years living in Southern Mexico, going on Sunday morning to the local market where the Chochinita Pibil Taco Stand was surrounded by people waiting for their order. As soon as the cook saw a new customer joining the crowd, he will give them a taco to make their waiting time less painful. ;)
MAKES ABOUT 8 SERVINGS
- 2 large banana leaves
- 1/2 cup of Achiote Paste (1 stick as sold in Latin stores)
- 2 cups of bitter orange juice, or one cup orange juice mixed with one cup of grapefruit juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 Pounds of boneless pork loin or pork shoulder cut in pieces
- 1 large red onion, sliced.
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon marjoram
- 1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 cup oil or lard
- 1 turkey size oven bag
- Salt to taste
This meal can also be cooked in a slow cooker for about 6 hours in the lower setting.
1. Roast the banana leaf, if you bought it from the frozen section of the supermarket, wait until it is completely defrosted.
To roast the banana leaf, place it directly over a medium hot fire of you gas stove, it will start changing color and getting some shiny while in contact with the fire. Make sure not to burn the leaves, we just want them to be pliable.
2. Line your roasting pan with the oven bag and arrange the banana leaves overlapping as in the above picture. You can also use aluminum foil instead of the oven bag.
3. In your blender, mix the Achiote (annatto) seasoning with the pepper and bitter orange juice. Add salt.
4. Place the pork meat on the leaves. Pour the Achiote mixture over. And add the oil/lard to give it more flavor.
5. Cover with the sliced onion and herbs. Fold the ends of the banana leaves over the pork.
6. Close the oven bag and cut 3 or 4 slits according to packages instructions. If using aluminum foil wrap tightly . Add about 1 1/2 quarter of water to the roasting pan to create a steaming effect. One time, I forgot to add the water and it still came out great.
Bake 2 1/2 hours in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Add more water to the pan if needed.
7. Remove roasting pan from oven and uncover the meat. The meat should be tender. If it isn’t, cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
To serve shred the meat and cover with the juice with warm tortillas and habanero sauce.