Monday, May 31, 2010

Puerco Pibil

Puerco Pibil is a slow roasted pork "butt" from the Yucatan in southern Mexico and it is my signature dish. The pork "butt", which actually comes from the shoulder, is slowly roasted in orange juice, vinegar, tequila and a homemade blend of spices on a low temperature for hours. I first learned about this dish from a movie, back in 2003, and have spent the last 7 years perfecting this recipe. It is so good that my vegetarian-friend will eat it every time I make it! If you like spicy food, this recipe is a must. I am happy to share my 7 years of trial-and-error with you. Call all your friends, have some tequila, and enjoy my favorite dish in the entire world!

INGREDIENTS - This recipe makes 10 pounds of pork

10 Tbsp. Annatto Seeds
4 tsp. Cumin Seeds
2 Tbsp. Black Peppercorns
20 Allspice
1 tsp. Whole Cloves
5 Habañeros, fire roasted (use all the seeds and all the veins)
1 C. Orange Juice
1 C. White Vinegar
1/4 C. Salt
16 Cloves of Garlic, roasted
5 Lemons, juiced
10 lb. Pork Should (Boston Butt), cut into 2" pieces
Banana Leaves or Turkey Bags

DISCLAIMER - This recipe is extremely spicy! If you don't like spicy food, you should stop reading now. You can control the amount of heat by removing the seeds and veins from the Habañero peppers or by using fewer of them, but this recipe packs a punch.

STAIN DISCLAIMER - The Achiote rub, especially in liquid form, as per later in the recipe, will stain anything it touches! If you spill a small amount of this bright red liquid on your counter-tops, clean it immediately. Annatto seeds are unforgiving and will stain your kitchen, so use care when handling them.

The first task is to create an Achiote rub. You can find Annatto seeds in the Ethnic section of your grocer. I found mine at Bloom (which is a subsidiary of Food Lion). You can also search a Hispanic shop if you know of any. I went out and bought a coffee grinder that I use only for spices. I suggest you do the same. You want to pulverize the annatto, cumin, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves into a fine powder.

Next, we want to roast our garlic and Habañeros. Place the garlic cloves on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Use the broiler setting to begin coloring the garlic cloves, shake often to mix the cloves. Remove from the oven when the cloves have become the color of honey. Slight charring is okay. Place the Habañeros in the oven using the broiler setting until the skin begins to blister. Rotate each pepper so that all sides become blistered. Remove from the oven and place the peppers in a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool.

[Latex gloves really help for this next step. If you don't have any powder-free latex gloves, just be sure to wash your hands afterward and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES. And, gentlemen, don't use the bathroom.]

Once the Habañeros are cool, peel off the black skin and discard. All the heat of a pepper is stored in its seeds and in the veins. If you want to cut back on the heat, you can simply remove the seeds and veins or use fewer of the peppers, but the roasting process diminishes the heat from the peppers slightly, so I used all the seeds from all these Habañeros. Combine the Habañeros, vinegar, orange juice, salt, garlic, lemon juice, and tequila and puree. I add about 3 shots of tequila for the whole dish. And get the good stuff! None of that cheap tequila. You're going to have a lot of tequila left over, so cook with what you like to drink.

Once the mixture is pureed, using a food processor, blender, or stick mixer, combine with the Achiote rub.

Cut the pork into 2" pieces, discarding NONE of the fat.

Place the pork into a turkey bag and pour the liquid Achiote mixture over the pork. Mix well, keeping in mind the stain disclaimer. Place the turkey bag into a baking tray and securely seal the bag. Poke ventilation holes in the bag to prevent exploding (I'm not kidding). Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Serve over a bed of white rice.

[I've never found Banana Leaves, but if you have them, line the pan with the leaves, place the pork on the leaves, pour the mixture over the pork, and wrap the leaves over the pork again. Increase baking time to 3-4 hours instead of 2 hours.]

OVERCOOKING DISCLAIMER - Thanks to improved feeding techniques, trichinosis in pork is now rarely an issue. Normal precautions should still be taken, however, such as washing anything (hands, knives, cutting boards, etc.) that comes in contact with raw pork and never tasting uncooked pork. Cooking it to an internal temperature of 137 degrees will kill any trichinae. Let me say that again... Cooking it to an internal temperature of 137 degrees will kill any trichinae. However, allowing for a safety margin for thermometer inaccuracy, most experts recommend an internal temperature of from 150 to 165 degrees, which will still produce a juicy, tender result. The 170 to 185 degree temperature recommended in many cookbooks produces overcooked meat.

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