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Chichen Itza cochinita pibil

Chichen Itza cochinita pibil
Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

What started as a breakfast favorite in Mexico's tropical Yucatan is taking L.A. by storm -- in tacos and tortas and burritos and even as a sophisticated plated dish. Cochinita pibil is succulent slow-roasted pork that's so tender you can ... Read more

Total time: About 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus marinating and baking time | Serves 8 to 10

Cochinita pibil

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 whole allspice berry
  • 1 small pinch dried oregano
  • 6 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
  • 2 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/8 cup grapefruit juice
  • 3/8 cup lemon juice
  • 5 pounds pork (pork butt or boneless pork shoulder)
  • 1/2 pound banana leaves, previously frozen and thawed
  • Pickled onion for garnish
  • 8 to 10 whole habanero peppers for garnish (optional)

Step 1In a spice grinder, grind the peppercorns, cloves, allspice and oregano to a fine powder. In a bowl, combine the spice mixture with the ground annatto seeds, 1 tablespoon salt, garlic and vinegar along with one-fourth cup water; stir until it reaches the consistency of a paste. (Makes about one-half cup; it can be refrigerated for several months.)

Step 2In a large bowl, make a marinade by stirring 2 heaping tablespoons achiote paste with the citrus juices and 1 tablespoon salt until well-blended.

Step 3Cut the pork into large pieces about the size of your fist. Add the pork to the marinade, stirring to cover completely; cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 3 to 12 hours, turning at least once.

Step 4Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a Dutch oven or heavy casserole with the banana leaves, overlapping the leaves slightly and covering the bottom and sides of the dish.

Step 5Place the marinade and pork in the banana leaf-lined pan. Pour the remaining marinade over the meat and fold the banana leaves tightly over the meat.

Step 6Cover and tightly seal the baking dish with heavy aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the meat is tender to the point of falling apart with a fork. Divide the pork among plates, skim the fat from the marinade and pour over the pork, sprinkle with pickled onions and place a fresh habanero pepper on top. Serve with tortillas and habanero salsa if desired.

Pickled onions

  • 1 large (or 1 1/2 medium) red onion, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

Step 1In a bowl, combine the onions, vinegar and salt with three-eighths cup water; let stand for 2 hours. Drain and serve with cochinita pibil.

Roasted habanero salsa

  • 9 habanero peppers (stems removed)
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Step 1Place the habaneros and garlic in a small, heavy frying pan and roast over medium-high heat until slightly charred. Place peppers and garlic in a food processor with vinegar and salt and blend until pureed. Add the oil and stir well to combine.

Note: From chef Gilberto Cetina of Chichen Itza Restaurant. Ground annatto seeds and frozen banana leaves are widely available at Latino markets. To thaw the banana leaves, remove the bag from the freezer about 1 hour before using.


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