Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eat Like the Mayans

My husband loves to watch those crazy food shows like the ones about food trucks or Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.  He sees crazy dishes and wants me to recreate them.  We had seen this dish on TV before, but we decided the special ingredients were too much trouble to seek out.  But then one of his friends posted a picture of this dish on Facebook that he had eaten in a restaurant in New York.  It's called Cochinita Pibil. It's a Mayan recipe that originated in the Yucatan State of Mexico.  It's a pulled pork dish that is cooked with something called achiote paste, sour oranges, and habanero peppers.  

My husband actually did all the research on this recipe, went and found all of the ingredients, and prepared the marinade. The one thing he couldn't find was the sour oranges, but he found a good substitute which was a combination of lime juice and orange juice.  

Before we mixed the marinade, we tasted the paste.  I was so excited!  The flavors hit you in waves, like a sensory journey. I tasted salty, garlicky, and cumin first.  Then it traveled a little deeper.  I got hints of oregano.  Then I tasted the cinnamon. Then I got the cloves and allspice.  It was amazing!  The final cooked product was a little more subtle, but amazing nonetheless.  The tacos are served with corn tortillas, radish slices, and pickled red onion.  This dish is usually slow roasted in banana leaves.  We chose to put it in the crockpot since it's been in the upper 90s here since I can't remember when.  If you live anywhere near a Hispanic grocery store and can find achiote paste, I urge you to try this.  It was fantastic!  And, if you're brave, you'll try my husband's Habanero Salsa with it (recipe below)!

One 4-5 lb pork butt or shoulder, cubed
A 1-ounce block achiote paste
1 T salt
1 whole bulb garlic, smashed and peeled
1 C lime juice
1 C orange juice
2 habaneros, seeded
1 C chicken stock

1 red onion, sliced
2 C red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 T mustard seed
1 teaspoon red chili flake (optional)

Corn tortillas
Radish slices
Lime wedges
Habanero Salsa (recipe below)

Put the achiote paste, salt, lime juice, garlic cloves, orange juice, habaneros, and chicken stock into a blender.  Pour this mixture over the cubed pork and stir.  Put it in the fridge and marinate overnight.

The next morning, place the pork and the marinade into a crockpot.  Cook on low for about 8 hours or until tender.

Meanwhile, put the onions in a bowl.  Bring all of the ingredients except the onions to a boil.  Pour the vinegar over the onions and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.

To serve the taco, remove the meat from the cooking liquid. Don't discard the liquid.  Shred the meat with forks.  Add back in enough of the cooking liquid to keep the meat moist.  Serve the meat in corn tortillas with the pickled onions, radish slices, and a squeeze of lime juice.  And Habanero Salsa if you're brave!

1/4 C lime juice
10 habanero peppers, seeded
2-3 Roma tomatoes, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C orange juice
1/4 C pineapple juice
1/4 C white vinegar
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 serranos, rough chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor. Chill before serving.


  1. This looks amazing! I will be making this for sure! Seems like there is something missing from the salsa recipe. Tomatoes?

    1. Thank you so much! And thank you for pointing out my mistake. I put 2 large Roma tomatoes in it, and I adjusted the recipe above. Enjoy!