What makes good Cochinita Pibil?
There have been a number of restaurants in my area serving food from the Yucatan.
I'm thinking of doing a Cochinita Pibil (CP) crawl and seeing how one place compares to another. Yeah, I know. Only on Chowhound could you admit to doing a CP tasting.
Happily, just has I was thinking of this Chow podted a nice recipe and picture.
I decided to look around the web to see if there were other recipes ... if they all had the same basic ingrediants. If that was the case, then I'd be judging the CP by the technique rather than the complexity of spicing.
There seem to be various versions like this one.
So how do I judge an excellent CP?
After reading Chowhound all these years, I can tell you exactly what makes good carnitas ... crispy pieces on the outside of juicy, succulantly lardy pork.
I know there are exceptions. I've had some excellent carnitas that didn't follow the rules ... after all ... good pig, is good pig.
So while it doesn't matter except what I like, I'm wondering what the standard for excellence would be ... texture of meat ... complexity of spicing?
We travelled to Playa Del Carmen on the east side of the Yucatan a few times. Their cochinita was fantastic - usually ate it from roadside stands for breakfast.
We were in Merida, a few hundred miles to the west, recently and I'd talk to people about cochinita. Generally they'd laugh at how people in Quintana Roo (Eastern state of Mexico's Yucatan) didn't know how to make cochinita.
Why? I'd ask naively. They cook it in the oven! Here, in Merida, we do it properly and cook it in the ground...that makes the difference! They'd reply quite proudly
I did have some very good cochinita in Merida!
I think the posters above hit most of the points. My mexican friends concur with zygote, they emphasize using a lechon, or milk pig. I think this is difficult to find in a restaurant setting, though.
Its extremely odd that you post ths question, rworange as I have been extremely interested in the preparation of this dish esp. after viewing this version ( http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2... ) from a local sd foodblog.
This seems to be more of a guisado style of conchinita pibil rather than hoja de platano -wrapped achiote-smeared and baked verision. Looks delicious (as do the rest of the dishes featured- love guisados).
Here are the basics for Cochinita Pibil and (consistent with my earlier comments)... I regard the baseline Cochinita Pibil to be Sanborn's version - not because I think its the best, but because I think it is the baseline that all other versions should surpass (if you can't beat a decent chain's version you are in the wrong business).
> Supremely tender & moist
> Flavor is just moderately complex featuring an earthy base (vis a vis the Achiote rub) brightened by the floral & sharp Seville oranges with a subtle bit of greeness from the banana leaf.
> A light but noticeable smokey flavor (Real Cochinita is made in a Deep Pit... but that is rarely true in the Urbs)
> Deep earthy flavor from freshly ground Achiote (its a very hard spice so most places use the powder or buy a paste instead).... as well more noticeable green notes from very fresh Banana Leaves... also Campechanos tend to add Hoja Santa which I think definitely adds to the complexity.
The downfall of much - actually most - of what I've had to me is simply stringy, chewy meat. I'm guessing that this happens because the pork was cooked too quickly at too high a temperature; I can't think offhand of any other reasonable explanation. This is a dish I want to love, but so far hasn't totally pleased me. IF I could have the flavors that I taste in, say, El Portal's version PLUS meat that was richly tender, I would be a happy boy. Whether that is to be expected from an authentically-prepared CP might be another matter; I don't know. Maybe I should get a good recipe and give it my best shot, and see what happens with that. At least that way I can control the quality of the meat going into it.