Recipe

Cochinita Pibil

by Tim Chin

Cochinita pibil is the pride of the Yucatan peninsula—a dish of smoky, slow-roasted pork marinated in a special blend of ingredients including cinnamon, allspice, and achiote (annatto) seed. Cochinita means “baby pig,” and the real-deal recipes use a whole suckling pig. Traditionally the whole thing is wrapped in banana leaves and then buried in a pib—a pit with a fire at the bottom. Here I use Boston butt and employ a two-stage “grill-and-swim” cooking process to make things a little more convenient and a lot juicier. Pregrilling the meat adds great flavor, while low and slow cooking in a water bath produces especially succulent meat—no pib required. Plus, you won’t have to fire up your grill on taco night, so you can focus on making Homemade Corn Tortillas or that sweet playlist you’ve been meaning to put together.

Yield
Serves 6 to 8
SFS_Cochinita_Pibil-0086.jpg
Ingredients

Pork

2,000 g boneless pork butt
150 g garlic cloves, unpeeled (2 heads)
25 g vegetable oil
40 g annatto seeds
10 g black peppercorns
8 g Canela cinnamon stick (1 [4-inch] stick)
7 g whole allspice berries
3 g Mexican oregano
65 g orange juice
60 g cider vinegar
22 g salt
4 g liquid smoke
226 g onion, cut into ¾-inch rounds (1 medium onion)
226 g banana leaf, cut into long strips and bruised
2 g bay leaves

Tortillas and Garnishes

18  (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
1 recipe Habanero Salsa
1 recipe Pickled Red Onions
  Thinly sliced radishes
  Thinly sliced scallions
  Queso fresco or Cotija cheese, crumbled
  Lime wedges

Pork

4 pounds boneless pork butt
2  heads garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
2 tablespooons vegetable oil
¼ cup annatto seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1  (4-inch) stick Canela cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1  medium onion, cut into ¾-inch rounds
8 ounces banana leaf, cut into long strips and bruised
8  bay leaves

Tortillas and Garnishes

18  (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
1 recipe Habanero Salsa
1 recipe Pickled Red Onions
  Thinly sliced radishes
  Thinly sliced scallions
  Queso fresco or Cotija cheese, crumbled
  Lime wedges
Essential Equipment
Instructions
  1. For the Pork: Use sous vide device to heat water bath to 155 degrees F/68.5 degrees C.
    • 2,000 g boneless pork butt
    • 150 g garlic cloves, unpeeled (2 heads)
    • 25 g vegetable oil
    • 40 g annatto seeds
    • 10 g black peppercorns
    • 8 g Canela cinnamon stick (1 [4-inch] stick)
    • 7 g whole allspice berries
    • 3 g Mexican oregano
    Slice pork in half through equator to create 2 equal pieces; transfer to large bowl. Cook garlic in dry 12-inch skillet over high heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until garlic is blackened on most sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer garlic to bowl and let cool; wipe out skillet with paper towels. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add annatto seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, and oregano, cover, and cook, shaking pan frequently, for 30 seconds. Transfer spice mixture to blender. 
    • 65 g orange juice
    • 60 g cider vinegar
    • 22 g salt
    • 4 g liquid smoke
    Peel garlic and add to spice mixture in blender along with orange juice, vinegar, salt, and liquid smoke; blend on high speed until smooth paste forms, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of blender as needed. Measure out 60 grams spice paste and rub evenly over pork. Leave remaining paste in blender; cover. 
  2. For Charcoal Grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (2,000 grams). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

    For Gas Grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high. 
    • 226 g onion, cut into ¾-inch rounds (1 medium onion)
    Clean and oil cooking grate. Place pork and onions on grill (if using charcoal, place over coals) and cook until well charred on first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip pork and onions and continue to grill until second side is well charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Return pork to large bowl. Continue to cook onions until softened, flipping occasionally, about 4 minutes; transfer onions to small bowl. 

    • 226 g banana leaf, cut into long strips and bruised
    • 2 g bay leaves
    Add onions to blender with remaining spice paste and blend on high speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide pork and spice paste between two 1-gallon zipper-lock bags; massage pork and paste in bags to evenly coat. Divide banana leaf and bay leaves between bags. Press out as much air as possible from bags and seal. Working with one bag at a time, gently lower bag into water bath, allowing any remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag (do not let go of bag). Reopen 1 corner of zipper, release remaining air pockets, and seal bag fully. Release bag into water bath and cook for 22 to 26 hours.  
  3. Remove bags from water bath, open bags, and use tongs to transfer pork to cutting board. Strain cooking liquid in bags through colander set over large serving bowl; discard solids in colander. Roughly chop pork into ½-inch pieces and transfer to serving bowl with cooking liquid; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with tortillas and garnishes. 
Instructions
  1. For the Pork: Use sous vide device to heat water bath to 155 degrees F/68.5 degrees C.
    • 4 pounds boneless pork butt
    • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • ¼ cup annatto seeds
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    • 1 (4-inch) stick Canela cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
    • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
    Slice pork in half through equator to create 2 equal pieces; transfer to large bowl. Cook garlic in dry 12-inch skillet over high heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until garlic is blackened on most sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer garlic to bowl and let cool; wipe out skillet with paper towels. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add annatto seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, and oregano, cover, and cook, shaking pan frequently, for 30 seconds. Transfer spice mixture to blender. 
    • ¼ cup orange juice
    • ¼ cup cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
    Peel garlic and add to spice mixture in blender along with orange juice, vinegar, salt, and liquid smoke; blend on high speed until smooth paste forms, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of blender as needed. Measure out ¼ cup spice paste and rub evenly over pork. Leave remaining paste in blender; cover. 
  2. For Charcoal Grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

    For Gas Grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high. 
    • 1 medium onion, cut into ¾-inch rounds
    Clean and oil cooking grate. Place pork and onions on grill (if using charcoal, place over coals) and cook until well charred on first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip pork and onions and continue to grill until second side is well charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Return pork to large bowl. Continue to cook onions until softened, flipping occasionally, about 4 minutes; transfer onions to small bowl. 
    • 8 ounces banana leaf, cut into long strips and bruised 
    • 8 bay leaves
    Add onions to blender with remaining spice paste and blend on high speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide pork and spice paste between two 1-gallon zipper-lock bags; massage pork and paste in bags to evenly coat. Divide banana leaf and bay leaves between bags. Press out as much air as possible from bags and seal. Working with one bag at a time, gently lower bag into water bath, allowing any remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag (do not let go of bag). Reopen 1 corner of zipper, release remaining air pockets, and seal bag fully. Release bag into water bath and cook for 22 to 26 hours.  
  3. Remove bags from water bath, open bags, and use tongs to transfer pork to cutting board. Strain cooking liquid in bags through colander set over large serving bowl; discard solids in colander. Roughly chop pork into ½-inch pieces and transfer to serving bowl with cooking liquid; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with tortillas and garnishes. 
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