Pressure Cooker Cochinita Pibil (Yucatecan pit cooked pork)


Fonda San Miguel is a restaurant in Austin, Texas that specializes in interior Mexican cuisine. Why interior Mexican? To distinguish it from the frontier Tex-Mex food that surrounds it in Texas. Not that there's anything wrong with Tex-Mex, but this meal was a whole different experience. I came back determined to make some of the food I ate while I was there.

Cochinita Pibil topped the list. It is a specialty of the Yucatan region, "pit cooked pork". It is pork shoulder, marinated in scarlet achiote paste, annato seeds and other spices ground up, then mixed with citrus juice. The pork is topped with a cooked salsa, wrapped in banana leaves, and then, traditionally, buried in a pit filled with heated stones.

I got the specialty ingredients, achiote paste and banana leaves, from my local Mexican supermercado. I was not going to dig a pit. First, there is the wife annoyance factor of a hole in the lawn. Second, and more important, a pit is way too much work. Thanks to some poor time management on my part, I didn't even have time for oven roasting; I had to pressure cook it to get dinner done on time. This wasn't a problem; the pressure cooker turned out great pibil, deeply flavored with the sweet, sour, earthy achiote.
*Don't have a pressure cooker? No problem. See the Variations section for instructions on cooking with a standard dutch oven.

Recipe: Pressure Cooker Cochinita Pibil (Yucatecan pit cooked pork)
Adapted From: Fonda San Miguel cookbook

Cook time: 60 minutes

Equipment:

Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • Half of a 3.5 ounce package of achiote paste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (juice of 1 orange)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder roast, cut into 1 1/2" strips (sold at my grocery store as "western ribs")
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Two 10 inch by 24 inch pieces banana leaf (optional)
Directions:
1. Saute the salsa: Heat 1 tsp vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sliced onion, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt on the onion, and saute until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes to the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.







2. Rub the ribs with achiote marinade: Put the achiote paste in a large bowl with the orange juice, cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Using a fork, mash and stir the achiote paste into the liquid until thoroughly mixed. Remove one tablespoon of the achiote marinade and stir it into the simmering tomatoes. Sprinkle the pork strips with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, then add to the bowl with the achiote marinade and toss until the ribs well coated.





3. Pressure cook the pork: Put 1/2 cup of water into the pressure cooker. Then put one piece of banana leaf in the cooker, and put the second piece in to form a cross. Put the pork in the middle of the banana leaf cross. Put the simmered tomatoes and onions on top of the pork, then fold the banana leaves over the top. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, then lower the heat to maintain that pressure and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow the pressure to come down naturally, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Serve the pork: Open up the banana leaves and remove the pork, tomato and onions to a platter. (For a nice presentation, use one of the banana leaves to line the serving platter.) Spoon a couple of ladles of the liquid in the pot over the top of the pork, and serve.

Variations:
*Don't have a pressure cooker? No problem. Use a heavy bottomed dutch oven with a lid, and increase the amount of water to 1 cup. Follow the instructions right up until "lock the lid". Then, instead of pressure cooking, bring the pot to a boil, and cover with the lid. Move the pot to a preheated 350*F oven and bake for 3 hours, until the pork is tender. Continue with the serving step.

*Can't find banana leaves? Don't worry - they are optional. You can wrap the meat in aluminum foil, or just skip them. You can skip the achiote paste as well, if you have to. It will taste great, but it won't really be cochinita pibil. But, really, to make this recipe, you should search out your local Mexican grocery for those two ingredients.

*In a hurry? Buy pre-mixed achiote marinade, and pre-made tomato salsa.

Notes:
*Achiote paste stains whatever it touches red. (Ground annato seeds, the base for achiote paste, are used to make red dye.) I try to contain the mess by using a glass or metal bowl to mash the achiote paste, and tossing the ribs in the bowl using tongs. Other options are to wear latex gloves, or live with red fingers for a few days.

*Serve with pickled red onions, refried beans (preferably black beans), mexican crumbling cheese (substitute  feta or pecorino romano), and lots of tortillas.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans in Tex-Mex Broth
Pressure Cooker Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes

Adapted from:
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art



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9 comments:

guitarzantx said...

Mike, your recipes are better tested and produce more consistent results than Cook's Illustrated. I made this dish last night and the family raved. Because I had a shoulder roast that was pretty fatty, I cut it up and trimmed as I would for stew meat. A local grocery chain with stores throughout Texas (HEB) has taken the wise step of theming some of their stores as more ethnically Mexican. As a result, I found fresh banana leaves to use for the dish and spent a mighty 30 cents on more than I needed.

I served my batch with brown rice and a Mexican-themed salad. I have been finding some great, dry and minerally rose wines, one of which paired beautifully with this dish. (We are sadly already hitting the low nineties. Too early for those temperatures, but I good excuse for breaking out the rose.)

As a tip to others, I was paranoid about the low amount of water in the recipe, and so tossed in the remaining marinade (probably about 1/2 a cup). The result was that the dish was soupier than it would have otherwise been. Trust Mike's amounts!

Another tip for folks out there regard the achiote paste. DO NOT buy the Sazón Goya product that masquerades as achiote. It is the easiest product to find, but monosodium glutamate is the FIRST ingredient listed by volume and achiote is the LAST. If you don't live where you can easily buy Mexican ingredients, follow the mail order link in the recipe. If you buy more than you need (as I did) for the recipe, my research indicates that it freezes wonderfully. The only package that I could find had about seven times what I needed! So I portioned into smaller blocks and froze them in individual baggies.

From our household to yours, thanks for another winning (and well tested) recipe! 

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Great! Glad it worked for you. Especially with the Rose wine - I'm a huge fan of crisp Rose during hot weather. (Of course, our definition of "hot weather" up here in Ohio is a little different from yours down in Texas...)
Mike

j-lon said...

Made this last night, once I got my Cuisineart electric cooker to work. Might want to give the following advice to people making the recipe in an electric pressure cooker. You need to put the little wire rack in the bottom of the insert, then put the banana leaves, meat, etc. on top of that. Otherwise, the cooker may overheat and not work.

Drew said...

OK! I just found your blog and your recipes and I have no idea if you are still publishing new stuff here or not. Everything is new to me and I just love what I've tried so far. The first thing I tried was your pressure cooker beef broth. It was out of this world good! Last night I tried this recipe. OMG!!! I thought it was amazingly delicious!!! I had to go to a local Latin super market for the achiote paste and forgot to look for banana leaves. Also, I did not think to check out your directions of how to prepare without banana leaves so I just put the meat in the pot in the water with the onions on top. Also... I don't know if pork country ribs are the same as what you got or shoulder but it was still terrific!

I can't wait to make this again with the banana leaves! Thanks for this blog and these recipes. I'm a dad and my "kids" are grown and away but I used to cook for them. Wish I had these recipes then! Thanks again!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

You're welcome, Drew. I'm glad you pressed on even without the banana leaves - as you found out, the recipe is still good without them.

james hobbs said...

I can recommend a traditional sauce ( I lived in the yucatan for a decade). Combine some lime juice, finely chopped red onion and chopped scorched habaneros with a little Mexican oregano. Let it sit an hour before use. Boom!

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Thanks for the suggestion!

GregDarcy said...

My butcher and I had long discussions about just what a "Western Rib" is. In the end we settled on what would be called a chump chop if it was lamb. Worked a treat. Though I had to cut them in half to fit them in the marinade bowl. I also had to fire roast my own tomatoes. These are simply not available here. And my local Asian was out of banana leaves when I went up to get some. I did track down the achiote paste though. Not easy. There is a grand total of two Mexican suppliers in the country. Luckily one is only 100 km away. And near my uncle.

The result was absolutely delicious. I teamed it with Laura's (Hip Pressure Cooking) frijoles, a salsa verde based on canned tomatillos, and store bought tortillas and yoghurt.

Mike V @ DadCooksDinner said...

Sounds delicious!

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