Viva México – COCHINITA PIBIL – Ján Chomík

Before I start the recipe of this “Yucatan delicacy”, it will be good to know a little about its history.

The cuisine of the ancient Maya was so varied and delicious that its quality has proven itself despite the centuries. Nowadays in Mexico they prepare dishes that have been preserved with various variations until today, so we can also prepare dishes that the original inhabitants of Central America ate more than 600 years ago. Of course, some of these dishes also arose as a result of the presence of the Spanish and the discovery of new sources, such as pork and spices.

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What dishes were they actually?

He is probably the most famous TAMALES. Unlike other pre-Hispanic cultures in the territory of Mexico, the Mayans did not only eat corn cakes, but tamales. It can be said without hesitation that it was their national dish. “Tamal” was not only a common dish but also an important food for ceremonies. It is a corn mass with various spices and meat that is cooked in banana leaves.

Another representative is RELLENO NEGRO – grilled meat covered in black sauce. This dish is prepared from dried smoked chilies, various spices such as cassava, cumin, achiote, oregano and others. The meat from which this dish was prepared was turkey. You may or may not know, but the turkey is from the New World. Before the Spanish came to Mexico, this type of sauce (less thick) was eaten with the meat of animals that were hunted in Mexico at that time. With the arrival of the Spanish, it was already prepared with chicken or pork. Today it is again prepared with turkey meat. It can be said that this recipe has undergone the smallest changes for hundreds of years.

It also underwent a minor change GUACAMOLE, the old residents prepared this delicacy from avocado, tomatoes, chili, lime and water. Now we prepare it with onions and coriander.

It could be the penultimate dish POC TASTE – roast pork. As I mentioned before, pig came to Mexico thanks to the Spanish. However, some historians claim that it was previously prepared from roast meat, baked on hot stones. This special dish is seasoned with radishes, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and a hint of sour orange to give it a unique flavor. It is actually a slightly less complicated version of the dish that is probably the most famous of the Yucatan cuisine – COCHINITE PIBIL

COCHINITE PIBIL

Cochinita Pibil – slow roast pork. Traditionally, the whole piglet is used, hence the word Cochinita – piglet. However, pork shoulder or neck is also often used instead of pork. The meat is marinated in an acidic marinade and then slowly roasted until the meat falls apart.

This pre-Hispanic dish was cooked by the Mayans with pheasant, wild boar or deer meat. They prepared it for Hanal Pixán – which is the day when the souls of the deceased visit their relatives. This takes place from October 31st to November 2nd, the same dates that Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico and brought pork, it was like putting together two pieces of a perfect puzzle. Then the Cochinita drink as we know it today was born.

HOW TO PREPARE COCHINITA PIBIL?

It is mostly established that we need pork leg, pork loin, banana leaves, achiote, orange juice and salt to prepare it. Every restaurant and family prepares it differently, and everyone swears that their recipe is the authentic one. Some say you need oregano, others say you need white pepper, others you need chile guajillo, and so on ad infinitum… I think it’s similar to our authentic recipe for cabbage or Christmas potato salad. But the truth is that it is in the variety of recipes that we find the beauty of any food.

HOW DOES COCHINITA PIBIL DRIPP?

The moment I wrote this question, I frowned… How would you describe the taste of pasta? It is very difficult to describe the taste of this dish in detail, but I will try to make it a little closer. It has a very characteristic, spicy taste with a slightly sour touch and juicy and very tender meat that “melts” in the mouth. While the flavor of the marinade predominates, it does not overpower the texture and flavor of the pork. By itself, this dish is not spicy, but any spicy sauce goes very well with it, ideally with habanero, and whatever else it may be, like Yucatan’s EL Yucateco or La Meridana. A great addition to this dish is pickled purple onion with oregano. Every good Mexican meal is eaten in a taco, that is, on a corn tortilla. Even in this case, it will not change.

HOW TO DO IT?

The traditional way to prepare Cochinita pibil is in an “earth oven”, so first you need to get free land and a shovel. You will also need banana leaves, I guess each of us has them at home, either bought or grown on our balconies or gardens. I’m joking of course.

In the original recipe, long marinated meat is wrapped in banana leaves and placed on hot stones in an underground hearth. There it is “buried” for long hours – here comes the explanation of the origin of the word pibil – which is actually the Mayan word for the word – buried.

So instead of a shovel, we take a pressure cooker from the pantry, or start the oven.

But first we have to prepare the sour marinade, it is very important. The purpose of this acidic marinade is to make the meat soft and tender. The sour marinade is traditionally made from bitter oranges, also known as Seville oranges. They are not usually available here, so you can replace them with a mixture of lime, lemon and orange juice. The beautiful orange color in Cochinita Pibil comes from annatto seeds that are ground or made into a paste – commonly known as Achiote. And rightly so, achiote gives the pork a specific flavor. I have Achiote marinade available in liquid form and it already has everything in it. Just pour this marinade over the meat and let it marinate for 3 hours. NO MORE!!!

Pork and Achiote liquid marinade (source: Ján Chomík)

We will need:

1.5 kg of pork shoulder

2 dlc Achiote liquid

2 finely chopped garlics

1 tablespoon of Mexican oregano

1 tablespoon of marjoram

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste

about 2 cm stick of Mexican cinnamon – that is, Ceylon cinnamon (you can leave it out, but I wouldn’t)

2-3 dried bay leaves

approach

1. cut the meat into large, about 8 cm cubes, place in a container and cover with liquid achiote. Mix and marinate in the refrigerator for three hours, no more.

Marinated pork

Marinated pork (source: Ján Chomík)

2. Place the marinated meat in a pressure cooker, add spices and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours. We make sure the meat is tender and falls apart easily. While it is still in the pot, we can tear it with a fork, we do not pour out the liquid that is created during study, but we mix it nicely with the meat.

Finely minced garlic cloves, Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt, Mexican cinnamon and dried bay leaves

Finely minced garlic cloves, Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt, Mexican cinnamon and dried bay leaves (source: Ján Chomík)

While the pork is cooking, prepare the pickled red onions for the Cochinita Pibil

Ingredients for pickled red onions

Ingredients for pickled red onions (source: Ján Chomík)

1 tablespoon of Mexican oregano

2-3 red onions cut into thin strips

1 liter of water

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 pieces of allspice

3-5 pieces of black pepper

1 dcl of water

1 dcl of vinegar

a little salt

Mexican oregano has a similar basic flavor to Mediterranean oregano, but that's where the flavor similarities end.  It's more citrusy and you can also smell licorice.

Mexican oregano has a similar basic flavor to Mediterranean oregano, but that’s where the flavor similarities end. It’s more citrusy and you can also smell licorice. (source: Ján Chomík)

“Stir” the Mexican oregano in a small skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Set aside to cool. Peel the onion and cut it into thin slices. Pour about a liter of water into the pot and bring to a boil. Add the chopped onion to the boiling water and turn off the heat. After 2 minutes, drain the onion quickly. Put the drained onion in a container and add vinegar, water, oregano, bay leaf and the rest of the spices. Season with salt and mix well. After a few hours in the refrigerator, the onion is ready to eat.

Pickled red onions go well with any grilled meat.

Pickled red onions go well with any grilled meat. (source: Ján Chomík)

Served with warm corn tortillas and pickled onions.

The meat should be soft, juicy and tender.

The meat should be soft, juicy and tender. (source: Ján Chomík)

Good appetite.

Good appetite. (source: Ján Chomík)

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