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Cochinita Pibil --- with Beef, is it doable or am I delusional?

laterible Aug 31, 2013 12:23 PM

So I had my heart set on making cochinita pibil for a holiday dinner for 15 people (Jewish new Year) and foolishly thought I could just sub in a different meat. But now that I am looking at it, it doesnt sound like the best idea. The reason I am fixated is that I want to impress relatives with the exotic banana leaves... even plantains... I looked around for beef or lamb in banana leaves and there are 2 options that come up:
Lamb Barbacoa http://www.patismexicantable.com/2012... OR
Beef with Guajillo saucehttp://www.food.com/recipe/beef-with-guajill...
oh yeah- and I even found an Omani lamb option...

I am now finding myself getting confused with the flavors and the cuisine (Mex vs ME) especially as the Barbacoa includes garbanzos which immed takes me to the ME.... I was going to use a rub of chiles and achiote and then have corn tortillas, but now that doesnt seem like it would work very well.
I need some clarity, some good advice and a dose of reality...
Thanks for all replies and suggestions (asap)!

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  1. paulj RE: laterible Aug 31, 2013 12:43 PM

    Garbanzos are used in Mexico. Like beef, pork and lamb they came from Spain. There are also areas of Mexico, like Merida in the south, that are known for Lebanese influences.


    I don't know of any reason why an achiote based rub couldn't be used on beef. The heavy use of achiote is more typical of the Yucatan (and Oaxaca) than the rest of Mexico.

    is a Costa Rican recipe for beef with achiote.

    2 Replies
    1. re: paulj
      laterible RE: paulj Aug 31, 2013 01:05 PM

      interesting recipe and thanks for the response. the most important element to me is the banana leaves (exotic presentation) and as i thought, the sour orange doesnt really work with beef and certainly not lamb. in reading the recipe, it calls for achiote paste after the meat is done, to mix with the plantains? i have anatto seeds and i love the color and subtle flavor but wasnt sure it works with beef or lamb. do i just add in whole plantains into the banana leaf bundle and cook all together low and slow?
      what cut of beef do you recommend using that would be comparable to pork shoulder? i was thinking either short ribs or 7 bone chuck. i may just go nuts and mix it together with leg of lamb...

      1. re: laterible
        ratgirlagogo RE: laterible Aug 31, 2013 03:38 PM

        I think paulj is correct that you could do this with beef. I'm dubious about lamb in this recipe, and I am a huge lamb fiend.
        I think chuck would be perfect, actually.

    2. sbp RE: laterible Aug 31, 2013 05:24 PM

      I'd say you could easily substitute brisket or chuck for pork. Most of the flavors would work very well (oregano, cumin, achiote, garlic, etc....). The recipes for cochinita pibil I've looked at don't use chiles, but that should work well too.

      Kenji Lopez Alt does a beef barbacoa recipe that you might like as well.

      1. chefj RE: laterible Aug 31, 2013 05:30 PM

        Pavo(Turkey) Pibil is a good option if you do not want to do Pork,which for a Jewish holiday won't work. Same Marinade and method.
        We have often done it with Turkey Thighs at work and it is very good.
        You could also do Fish Filets rubbed with Achiote Paste wrapped in Banana Leaves.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefj
          Soul Vole RE: chefj Aug 31, 2013 10:42 PM

          Or chicken -- pollo pibil. And in fact if it's the banana leaf flair you're after, the chicken/turkey/fish options in a way make more sense because they're traditionally cooked and served in small banana leaf bundles whereas cochinita pibil isn't.

          And as sbp said dried chile is not typically used in these dishes. Like most Yucatecan cuisine they're not spicy on their own. (The habanero salsas they're served with on the other hand can be ferociously hot.)

          Oh and don't forget the pickled red onion. :)

        2. JungMann RE: laterible Aug 31, 2013 10:45 PM

          I could see the pibil spices working with beef but if the main star is the banana leaves, there are lots of kosher mains you could make. I use banana leaves to cook fish and tamales far more often and easily.

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