Our family adores Cozumel, a beautiful, friendly island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Cozumel has some of the world’s best diving (and our worldwide favorite dive shop, Blue Project.) After a day of diving, nothing tastes better to me than aqua con gas and a cochinita pibil taco.
Here are some interesting facts about cochinita pibil that I found at Wikipedia:
1. Cochinita pibil (also puerco pibil) is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán peninsula. Preparation of traditional cochinita involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed, and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf. The high acid content of the marinade and the slow cooking time tenderizes the meat, allowing otherwise tough pieces of meat to be used. The Yucatecan recipes always employ the juice of Seville or bitter oranges for marinating. In areas where bitter oranges are not common, juice of sweet oranges combined with lemons, limes, or vinegar are employed to approximate the effect of the bitter orange on the meat. Another important ingredient in all pibil recipes is achiote (annatto), which gives the meat its characteristic color and adds to flavor. Traditionally, cochinita pibil was buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom to roast it. The Mayan word pibil means "buried".
2. In the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico, puerco pibil is a favorite dish of antihero Agent Sands, and the character's obsession with the dish is the feature of several scenes. He feels so strongly about the food that he murders any cook who makes it too well (in order to "maintain balance" in the country). A recipe for puerco pibil appears as a bonus feature on the DVD edition of the film. The director, Robert Rodriguez, provides a recipe and instruction on how to cook the dish.
Now, I am not claiming to have made traditional cochinita pibil tacos. In fact there are 4 big deviations of my method, so food purists, do yourself a favor and stop reading this post RIGHT NOW. Those deviations are:
1. There is not a smoldering pig-sized hole in my back yard. We used a crock pot.
2. We substituted bright orange bell peppers for the habanero. (Chile wimps!)
3. I made the dinner kit 5 days before and put in freezer.
4. Banana leaves? Are you kidding me?
It was super tasty, a real hit. First, here are the ingredients:
Meat and marinade:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp ground achiote
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 tsp whole Mexican oregano
3 lbs. bone-in, pork shoulder
1 cup fresh lime juice (about 10 limes)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice, plus the juiced hull
1/2 of a large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 of a large red onion, sliced into small strips
juice of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes
1 orange bell pepper
12 corn or flour tortillas
Combine the first 7 ingredients of the marinade until it has the consistency of a paste.
Add the paste, the pork, and the remaining ingredients to a ziplock bag or a covered glass container. Marinate the pork overnight.
You can freeze the meat and marinade at this point to defrost and make later. Just make sure the salsa is made fresh.
Cook the pork and marinade on low in a crockpot for 9 hours. It will FALL OFF THE BONE, so tender will the pork be.
Make the salsa by combining all the salsa ingredients in a small bowl.
Plate the tacos on fresh, warm corn or flour tortillas. Yummo.
I served this dinner with a corn and black bean salad that I saw on Rachel Ray's show.