It all started yesterday when we came across the achiote at Ley supermarket in Puerto Vallarta. This blend of achiote seeds and other spices adds a deep red colour and an earthy, peppery flavour to foods. Nothing else quite like it.
Our attempt at making Cochinito Pibil was inspired by the genuine dish from Mexico’s Yucatan that we heard so much about and a re-watching of Rick Bayless preparing it on his cooking show: Mexico – One Plate at a Time. Rick Bayless says of it, “we’re talking a whole pit-cooked pig, smeared generously with the unique savor of rusty-colored achiote seasoning and served with the meaty cooking juices, a drizzle of habanero fireworks and the citrus-sour of pickled red onion.”
We didn’t have a pit so we thought we’d go with his simplified recipe that substitutes a slow cooker in place of a pit. At least we had a slow cooker.
Of course, Margaret being Margaret, she tossed in extra ‘secret’ ingredients inspired by the moment into both the marinade and the rest of the dish. (“Who follows recipes…?”)
In this adaptation, just like in the pit-cooked version, the pork is wrapped in banana leaves while it cooks. My job was to find some. No trip to the specialty-foods store for me – we have a bunch of scruffy wild banana plants growing on the side of the road just up the road from were we are staying.
Margaret lowered the pork into the slow cooker – onto the banana leaves, added the marinade and other ingredients , and covered it all with a layer of onions. (“You can never have too many onions.”) After folding the ends of the leaves over top, and turning on the slow cooker, all we could do now is wait.
Finally it was ready.
Rice and beans. Pork with achiote sauce. Lime pickled red onions piled on top. Fresh warm tortillas from the tortilleria in town.
Yummy, but… not ‘to die for’. I don’t think I’ll put those Yucatan folks out of business just yet. It will likely take me a few more tries to get the timing of the cooking and balance of the seasonings just right.
But I do have enough pork left over to have several taco lunches yet. A that’s a definite win.