That would be cochinita pibil, the closest thing there is to a State Dish of Yucatán. As Nancy and Jeff Gerlach told us when we visited them at their house on the beach on the northern tip of the peninsula, it is so revered that there are pibil cookoffs, which are similar to chili con carne and barbecue cookoff events here in the states.
It takes a lot of time to make this dish, and since we were busy visiting all the attractions, instead of cooking it from scratch, Nancy sent Jeff out to their favorite pibil restaurant for some takeout. She served the spread in her dining room and I took a snapshot of it. Here’s a recipe for making cochinita pibil in a slow cooker.
Shredded Pork and Bean Panuchos with Pickled Habanero and Onions
Recipe courtesy of Marcela Valladolid
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons achiote paste (available from Mexgrocer.com)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed juice from 6 oranges, skins reserved
1/3 cup pineapple juice
2 1/2 pounds pork butt, cut into 3-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
5 habanero chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crumbled dried Mexican oregano (available from Mexgrocer.com)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pickled Red Onions:
1 red onion, quartered and cut in 1-inch strips
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 limes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon crumbled dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Fried Black Bean-filled Tortillas (Panuchos):
20 corn tortillas
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 can refried black beans
For the pulled pork: Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly softened, about 2 more minutes. Add the achiote paste and mix well to incorporate. Add the orange and pineapple juices and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat off and carefully transfer to a blender. Cool. Process the mixture until smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
Sprinkle the pork butt heavily with salt and pepper on all sides. Arrange the orange skins on the bottom of a slow cooker, skin-side up (this adds more flavor to the pork and ensures the meat will not dry out). Place the pork butt on top of the oranges. Pour the achiote puree inside the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and turn on to high heat. Let it cook until the pork is tender and ready to shred, about 5 hours.
Turn the slow cooker off and remove the oranges from the pot and discard. Let the pork cool slightly before shredding. Using two forks or with clean hands, shred the pork. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker filled with sauce and keep it warm until it’s ready to serve.
For the pickled habaneros: Mix the habanero chiles, lime juice, olive oil, oregano and salt into a small bowl. Mix well to incorporate. Let it stand at least 20 minutes. They can be made 1 day ahead.
For the pickled red onions: Mix together the red onions, lime juice, olive oil, oregano and salt into a medium bowl. Mix well to incorporate. Let it stand for 30 minutes. They can be made 1 day ahead.
For the fried black bean filled tortillas (panuchos): Using a 5-inch round cookie cutter, cut a smaller tortilla out of each tortilla. Save the scraps for making chilaquiles, tortilla soup, etc. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Then add the beans to warm and soften, about 5 minutes, stirring continuously to avoid burning. Turn the heat off and reserve.
In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable oil to 350 degrees F. While the oil is heating, form the panuchos. Start by spreading 1 tablespoon of warmed beans on the surface of the tortilla. Stack the second tortilla over it, pressing on the edges to seal. Remove any excess beans that squeeze out from the side of the panucho. Working in batches, fry the panuchos until golden in color, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
To serve: Top each panucho with about 1/3 cup of cochinita pibil. Top with the pickled red onions and habaneros, if desired. Take a bite, die and go to heaven.
Heat scale: Medium