International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Cochinita Pibil

A plate of cochinita pibil

(Mexican citrus-marinated pork slow-roasted in banana leaves)

Image Creative Commons by Noonch

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For an ethereal taste of Yucatecan cuisine, you must try cochinita pibil. This Mayan dish is traditionally made with suckling pig (cochinita) roasted in a pit (pibil). In this simplified recipe, chunks of pork are seasoned with a full-flavored citrus marinade, encased in bananas leaves and slow-roasted in the oven or on the grill. Often called puerco pibil.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Pork butt, cubed -- 2 pounds
  • Orange juice -- 1/2 cup
  • Lime juice -- 1/2 cup
  • Recado rojo seasoning paste -- 3 or 4 tablespoons
  • Garlic, minced -- 5 or 6 cloves
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Banana leaves, rinsed, hard spine removed -- 2 or 3

Method

  1. In a large, non-reactive bowl mix together the pork, orange and lime juice, recado rojo, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerated for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lay banana leaves in the bottom of a roasting pan with the ends hanging over the sides. Place the pork and its marinade in the middle of the banana leaves. Fold the banana leaves up and over the pork, forming a package enclosing the meat. Tie the package closed with string if you like.
  3. Place in the oven and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
  4. Adjust seasoning and serve in tortillas topped with cebollas encurtidas, spicy salsa and a side of black beans.

Cochinita Pibil Variations

  • Marinade: Yucatecans use bitter orange juice for the marinade. The mix of orange and lime juice approximates its flavor. If you can find bitter oranges, use 1 cup of the fresh juice. But avoid bottled versions. They contain very little juice, lots of citric acid and not a lot of flavor.
  • Cooking Cochinita Pibil on the Grill: Get your coals going. When they are ready, move them to one side of the grill. Place the roasting pan on the other side, and slow roast until the pork is cooked to tenderness.
  • Banana leaves can be found in the frozen section of most Latin and Asian markets.They give the meat a unique flavor and aroma. If you can't find them, just use aluminum foil instead.

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