Cochinita Pibil

A tangy, tart delicious way to make pork that flakes apart like paper mache. The translation of the dish means “baby pig roasted underground,” but you can easily prepare this above ground on an outdoor grill or in the oven (the better to permeate the house with the stinking goodness of juicy pig).

The key is “low and slow” and the wrapping of the banana leaves – although not tragically essential – it does infuse the meat with a tropical earthiness and is really fun to unwrap. Makes you feel like you’re having a luau. Banana leaves can be purchased from most Mexican markets. Failing to find the frawns, wrapping in aluminum foil is perfectly acceptable.

Want save some energy and time? The pressure cooker yields an amazingly tender form of the dish while still utilizing the richness of the banana leaves.

Serves 4

1 4-lb pork butt roast

3 oranges, juiced (The more sour, the better. Yields about ¾ C)

1-2 limes, juiced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 T achiote powder or paste emullsified

1 t oregano flakes or powder

1 t cumin

Pepper

2-4 large banana leaves

Prepare the marinade 24 hours before cooking. Combine juices, garlic, oregano, achiote, cumin and pepper in a small cuisinart. Cut the pork into golf ball-sized chunks. Pour over the pork and refrigerate.

The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Before cooking, hold the banana leaves flat over low gas heat for just a few second to make the leaves more pliable and less brittle.  Lay out two sheets of tin foil in a criss—cross fashion inside an over-ready pan. The foil must be large enough to cover the pork and be sealed. Now lay the warm leaves inside the foil in the same manner.

Place the marinated pork in the center of the leaves and pour excess marinade over the top. The key is making sure the leaves are large enough to cover and encase the meat. If need be, use multiple leaves and place overlapping one another. Now fold the leaves over on both sides and turn the package so the seam is now on the bottom so that the leaves won’t pop open.

Now fold over the tin foil in a similar manner only seal the foil package by bending in the ends where they meet.

Bake for two hours. An internal therm should read about 170 and then you’re great to go. Let the meat rest for about ten minutes to cool a bit and let the flavors coalesce.

Then shred the meat with forks and eat inside a warm tortilla with pickled red onions and diced avocado. A cold beer and a thick napkin is all you need on the side. Hyperbole aside, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Pressure Cooker Method

Follow the same marinating and size-cutting directions above. When ready to cook, cut a banana leaf to fit into the basin of the cooker. Add the cubed pork onto the leaf as much in one level as possible with little overlap. Cover the meat with the remaining marinade. Then place another cut-to-size leaf on top of the pork mixture and press down so it’s touching all the meat (to embark its flavor).

Close the lid. Set the timer for 50 minutes. It will take a good few minutes for it to come up to temp. When it does, the timer display will kick in and start counting down. When the timer hits the limit, still do nothing and let the cooker slowly release pressure on its own – about 15 minutes. At that point, move the lid knob from the “steamer” choice it had been on to “vent” to release any remaining steam (there should be very little.

Now, remove the lid and serve in warm tortillas or over cilantro/lime infused rice.