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Apr 19, 2008 11:24 PM

Cochinita Pibil

Okay, now I have made it twice and still not happy with the results. First time, I used the recipe from Gourmet magazine and made a mistake on cooking temp - I used 400F for 4 hours. Well, yes, they were little charred bits of pork but very tasty. Some was edible. Tonight I made the You Tube recipe that Antonio Banderas killed for and cooked at 325F for 4 hours. It was fall apart tender but no crunchy tips. Plus way too much acid - apple cider vinegar, juice of 5 lemons, orange juice. I never have so many problems making nice food - I am ready to give up and just make a mole. How do I get fall apart tender and crunchy tips?

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  1. i've never made this recipe, but on the "once upon a time in mexico" dvd robert rodriguez, the director, gives a little cooking school on how to make puerco pibil. the dish actually plays a small role in the movie (johnny depp's eccentric agent sands character is obsessed with it). is that the youtube video you're watching? i'll link to it, in case it's not.

    1. I love cochinita pibil, but never think of the dish as having crunchy tips like carnitas, or something roasted, etc.

      Every time I've enjoyed this classic Yucatan dish in Mexico, or make it at home, it's marinated with achiote paste and other seasonings, and slow-cooked in banana leaves. It's definitely fall-apart tender, but the dish is always braised (the Mayan word 'pibil' means buried).

      Hmm...your description is interesting. If it's a memory of a dish you had at some specific place, details please!

      8 Replies
      1. re: Rubee

        No, it isn't a memory. I guess I just like crunchy tips and thought this might be like that. So, that aside, the biggest problem with my dish last night was flavour. I did use that recipe, beelzebozo, from the YouTube clip. There was just way too much acidic flavour for my taste. Is that how it is supposed to be? When I check with the Gourmet recipe, they only call for sour orange juice and no vinegar. Do you put apple cider vinegar in yours, Rubee?

        1. re: sarah galvin

          Hi Sarah!

          Nope, no cider vinegar. The recipe I use is a Rick Bayless one - as silverlakegirl mentions below, it's from "Mexico One Plate at a Time". His recipe calls for sour orange juice, and no vinegar. I have, however, made a Diana Kennedy recipe before that called for vinegar as a substitute for the sour orange juice. In "One Plate at a time", Bayless' substitute for 1-1/2 cups of sour orange juice (which I'm usually able to find in latin markets) is 1 cup fresh lime juice and 1/2 cup fresh orange juice.

          The marinated pork is then wrapped in banana leaves in a roasting pan and cooked for about 4 hours at 300-350 on a grill; although I've also done it an oven. I tried to google his recipe, but could only find his short-cut one from a different book. If you're interested, let me know and I'll post the paraphrased recipe.

          1. re: Rubee

            I would love to see his recipe. Thx.

            1. re: sarah galvin

              Will do - I'll post tomorrow night sometime. I hope you like it!

              1. re: sarah galvin

                Here you go!

                From Rick Bayless' "Mexico One Plate at a Time"

                Slow-Roasted Achiote Pork in Banana Leaves - Cochinita Pibil

                1-pound package of banana leaves, defrosted if frozen.
                Two bone-in pork shoulders (about 12 pounds total) cut into 3-inch cross sections (I have this done by a butcher)
                14 large garlic cloves peeled and chopped
                1-1/2 cups fresh sour orange juice (or 1 cup fresh lime juice and 1/2 cup fresh OJ).
                1 Tb salt

                For the achiote seasoning paste, grind the following spices together in a spice grinder as fine as possible:

                5 Tb of achiote seeds
                1-1/2 Tb dried Mexican oregano
                1-1/2 Tb black peppercorns
                1-1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
                1/2 tsp whole cloves
                6 inches of Mexican cinnamon (canela) or 1-1/2 Tb ground

                In a blender, add the ground spices, salt, garlic, and juice and blend until smooth. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for 6 hours or longer (the marinade will hold for a week). He suggests reblending to make it smoother before you use it.

                Evenly coat the pork with the marinade. Do it quickly so you don't stain your hands. Marinate for several hours, preferably overnight, up to 24 hours.

                Heat a grill to medium-high. Cut the hard edge/rib of the banana leaves so you have 3 sections about a foot longer than a large roasting pan. Line the bottom and sides so they overlap and hang over the pan. Put the meat in, drizzle with the marinade, and fold the leaves over. Cut 3 more sections, lay them on top overlapping, and tuck in at the sides.

                Turn the grill to medium-low, place the pan on the grate, and cover. Cook for about four hours until the meat is fork-tender. He suggests a temperature of 300-350 if there is a thermometer.

                Unwrap and serve, or cut the meat into chunks. Serve with the classic condiment of pickled-red onions (cebollas curtidas), and fresh salsa.

                1. re: Rubee

                  That is the recipe I will use next time - no vinegar, long slow cooking, makes sense to me. Thank you!

              2. re: Rubee

                Actually, the recaudo recipe for the Achiote paste in Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican calls for Cider Vinegar, but its only like a tablespoon. Thats the recipe I use for making Cochinita Pibil. I haven't seen the Mexico: One plate at a time recipe though.

            2. re: Rubee

              Rubee, I forgot to ask. What temp and how long do you cook? Of the two recipes I have, one says cook at 400F for 2 hrs and the other is 325F for 4 hours.

            3. Yikes! If the recipe in Gourmet specified that temp for that long, some editor needs to be punished! I would never go over 300F to slow cook pork. Patience will reward you :-).

              Hope that you have seen this posted recipe with lots of commentary/correction:

              Our Mayan goddess Dommy! on the LA Board has some tips here:
              They also refer to the Rick Bayless recipe which shouldn't be too hard to find by googling.

              After a long low and slow cook, you could shred the meat and put it under the broiler for a very short time.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DiveFan

                Hadn't thought of the broiler idea but that would give the crispy that I like. Actuallly the Gourmet recipe looks like it has carmelized on the crust of the pork.

              2. Actually, I had the great pleasure of having Diana Kennedy make this dish for me and others the last time I was in the Yucatan outside Merida. It began by actually slaughtering the pig that we were going to use! We even went out to visit the dwindling achiote trees where the achiote seeds come from. Yes, it is slathered with the paste and spices and buried in the ground for 24 hours.

                The excellent DVDs done by Ricky Bayless called "One Plate at a Time" also has what appears to be an authentic version made in his backyard and an easier "kitchen" version. My cookbooks happen to be packed away now but I'm almost positive that he has at least two books with Conchinita Pibil in them.

                I like his recipes as he knows what the authentic version should taste like and tries to offer a recipe that best approximates that taste. If I can find the book, I'll post a synopsis.

                1. how about the recipe for 'mexican pulled pork' from this month's cook's illustrated? it's specifically designed to create crisp, caramelized pork that sounds very much like cochinita pibil. just reduce the amount of citrus in your recipe, reduce the liquid to a glaze after the pork braises, refold that liquid back into the shredded pork, and broil it (carefully flipping to ensure even browning) until it's nice and crispy. done!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: beelzebozo

                    I will go out and buy that magazine. It sounds like what I prefer. Actuallly I did roast a whole pork butt at 400F for 4 hours and it was fantastic so maybe I just prefer pulled pork to pibil?

                    1. re: sarah galvin

                      possibly! you could always take your pulled pork recipe that you enjoy so much and serve it up southwest style with tortillas and mexican condiments. i've done it before, and it's awesome.

                      1. re: beelzebozo

                        Good idea. But I will probably try the pibil one more time - just not quite yet!

                        1. re: beelzebozo

                          I had leftovers for supper tonight and it was better than last night. I still don't like the vinegary flavour so will eliminate the cider vinegar but otherwise, I can live with it.

                        2. re: sarah galvin

                          I think the pulled pork recipe in Cooks Illustrated is for carnitas, not pibil, and that's why it's broiled to crisp the edges (one of the reasons I actually like carnitas better than pibil!).

                          BTW - I'll link my favorite short-cut version for carnitas - full of flavor and the chunks get nicely caramelized and crispy.

                          Carnitas con Salsa de Aguacate y Salsa Mexicana

                          1. re: Rubee

                            I think I must be a carnitas person, too. I like the crisp edges.

                            1. re: Rubee

                              400F for 4hrs?

                              Isn't pibil traditionally "pit" cooked ... steam/smoke ...
                              not much crunch here.