Puerco Pibil–Once Upon A Time in Mexico Style

Here is yet another reason not to see movies at the theater. In Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Robert Rodriquez’ sequel to Desperado, Johnny Depp’s character is just crazy about Puerco Pibil. On the DVD extra “Ten Minue Cooking School,” Robert Rodriguez shows how to make Puerco Pibil. (Of course, now with the magic of youtube, anyone can watch the extra.) Having made the dish several times, I’d like to present this dish along with some tips and modifications.


  • Coffee grinder
  • Large Baking dish or Roasting Pan
  • Zip-lock bag
  • Blender
  • Banana leaves (optional)


  • 5 tbs Annato Seed (note)
  • 2 tsp Cummin Seed
  • 1 tbs Peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp Cloves
  • 8 whole Allspice
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1-3 habanero chiles (note)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 5 lemons
  • Splash of the finest tequila you can find (note)
  • 5 lbs of Pork Butt


  1. Using the coffee ginder, grind Annato, Cumin Seed, Cloves, Allspice, and Peppercorns into a fine powder.
  2. Remove seeds and inner membrane from habanero.
  3. Add vinegar, orange juice, habanero, salt, garlic, and spice powder to blender. Blend on high for 30-60 seconds.
  4. Add juice of five lemons and Tequila and blend for another 30-60 seconds. Congratulations, you’ve just made achiote paste.
  5. Cut pork into 2 inch cubes and place in a large ziplock bag; pour achiote paste over pork. Seal bag and mush bag around to spread the paste over the pork. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.


  1. Line the baking pan with banana leaves (or foil if you don’t have leaves).
  2. Pour pork and achiote paste into pan.
  3. Cover with more banana leaves and then foil. Crimp foil around pan to make sure steam doesn’t escape.
  4. Bake in the oven at 325° F for 4 hours.

And bam, a dish so good you might just get whacked for making it.

Serving Suggestions:

This dish is very strong in flavor, and some people might want to dilute it a bit. Ideal candidates are white rice and pico de gallo. Shred the pork and mix into or serve on top of white rice and pico.


  • Annato seed (also called achiote) is often available in grocery stores in small plastic packets (Badia brand in Florida). A one ounce packet holds about 2.5 tbs, so two packets should do the trick.
  • Lately, I’ve stopped putting the spice powder in with the liquid blend. When you pour it out of the blender, a lot of the spices are left behind. So I just pour the spice blend direcly on top of the pork in the ziploc bag and then pour the liquid over it.
  • Habanero is the hottest chile in the world, so you might want to "wimp it down a bit." Here are some tips: 1) use less habanero or even a half or quarter of one; instead of blending the habanero, just slice into strips and place them whole in the ziplock bag; make sure you don’t get the seeds or membrane into the dish. Don’t pick your nose or touch your eyes or contacts for two days after handling the inside of Habanero (or just wear gloves while cutting it).
  • It doesn’t really matter what kind of Tequila you use as long as it’s real Tequila. This means it should say 100% agave, and no Cuervo Gold or any other "gold" Tequila. For me a "splash" means a 1/4 cup.
  • For you Alton Brown fans, the achiote paste is technically a marinade, so it will not really tenderize or penetrate the meat. You don’t need to let it soak for long periods of time, although I usually make it the night before I cook it for convenience. Also because of the acid, you probably won’t want to line the pan with aluminum foil.
  • The slow moist cooking over low heat, however, will tenderize the pork. The pork will be very tender and is easily "pulled."
  • I have also made this recipe with rib end roast instead of pork butt with excellent results. Cut the meat off the bone, but leave at least some of the bone in the mixture for added flavor. I’m going to try this with whole chicken some time. Just butcher it according to Alton’s instructions.

Making Biltong

Biltong is a South African dried meat, similar to jerky, but it’s dried at room temperature. It is phenomenally tasty. Here is my guide on making biltong (videos to follow).

  1. Obtain London broil. Cut broil into strips no more than an inch think ½ to ¾ is about just right.
  2. Spray or rub meat with a brown vinegar (apple cider is most often recommended)
  3. Sprinkle coarse salt on all sides of meat (optional sprinkle some coriander and black pepper at the same time)
  4. Refrigerate overnight; pour off any water that comes out of the meat
  5. Scrape most of the salt off; add a little more vinegar
  6. Season with 4 parts coriander to 1 part black pepper (I also put about ½ part salt; you can add other spices to taste)
  7. Hang meat in a cool, dry place for 4 – 7 days to taste (thicker takes longer; drier takes longer)
  8. When ready to test, remove meat and cut off a few slices
  9. Store…hahahaha…okay, just eat.


  1. Traditionally it is done in the dry season under trees. The purpose of the coriander was to keep flies off the meat.
  2. Biltong has been eaten as long as fifteen years later with no deleterious effects.
  3. An air conditioned home is the perfect temp/dryness for making biltong. Alternatively, your garage in January would probably fit the bill.
  4. To hang the meat, I strung a line with knots tied in it (to keep the meat from sliding and touching each other) across a walk in closet. I used large paper clips as hooks for the meat (boil them if you feel like it, since they will be touching parts of the meat that did not receive the vinegar/salt treatment. If you have a closet with wire shelving, the wire shelving is a perfect place to dry it.
  5. Alternatively, you can make a biltong box to dry it in: box with a low watt bulb and a fan with dowels in it to hang the meat from. You can make one or buy one. But this raises the temperature slightly because of the bulb.
  6. Or you can do it in a spare bathroom (the shower bar makes a great rack) but don’t do it if you take showers in the bathrooms as it increases the humidity too much.
  7. Turning on a fan will help to dry the biltong faster.
  8. Some people like their biltong drier and some like it wetter. Generally beef is made a little wetter, while game (like elk, antelope) is made drier. You can gauge the dryness by the redness: pinker/redder = wetter; blacker = drier. The stuff you had today was slightly wet.
  9. A friend from South Africa says my biltong is pretty spot-on, and some friends who have lived in South Africa say they like my biltong better than what they got in South Africa.
  10. Your wife will think you are crazy for doing this and worry about bugs in the house. Don’t worry; they are not going near your meat.
  11. Fun fact: MS Word’s spell check contains the word biltong.

Here are some other videos on making biltong:

This series is the most informative. Unfortunately, it’s not done yet:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DltkGVzqrWI
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhdJmFZomks
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uOHCbHQwFM
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HANx8a0p8E
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJvynEvhQVM
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj578FsdvTs

In the closet:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-BOsNA6NDU

In the bathroom:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwvVZJpmNCw

With a biltong box:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb-YwyLTQTo

Black sapote

One of my hobbies/interests of late has been producing my own food. I’m starting small with fruit trees. One of my first scouting trips took me to Excalibur Fruit Trees where among other things I was exposed to the Black Sapote. The owner told us that when ripe, the fruit actually tastes like chocolate pudding. She gave us an unripe fruit to take home and try. This video records the reaction of my parents trying it for the first time.

Okay, now that you’ve seen the video, the fruit doesn’t have that much flavor. It is very mild but does taste mildly of watered down cocoa without much sugar. The owner told us she likes to add sugar and mix it with cool whip. Alternatively, she likes to put it in baked goods, especially banana bread.

Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Part serendipitous accident, part designer cookie. I was cooking at a friends house and asked for vanilla extract. By accident, she gave me peppermint extract, and the rest is history.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter or margarine*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 dash of salt (approx 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 bag chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate depending on your mood)


  1. Mix butter or margarine with the sugar until thoroughlt blended and smooth. For best results, do it by hand, not with a handmixer (we’re old fashioned here). If the margarine is too hard, you can soften in the microwave, but be careful that you do not melt it, becuase if you do, then your dough will be oily on the surface, but not stick together right, and your cookies will not have the right consistency.
  2. Mix in the eggs until smooth.
  3. Add in the vanilla and peppermint extract. I just free pour these until I feel good about it. Mix
  4. Add salt and baking soda and mix. (The salt is really optional, but I think it makes them better.)
  5. Add cocoa powder, more or less depending on your mood. Mix (slowly at first to avoid wearing the cocoa powder).
  6. Add flour one cup at a time and mix between cups, again starting slowly.
  7. When dough is consistent and all traces of flour gone, then add in the chips.


  1. Using a spoon, drop a certain amoung of dough (depending on desire cookie size) onto a nongrease baking sheet.
  2. Bake at 325-375 for about 8-10 minutes. Start with 350 and experiment because your oven will be different than mine.
  3. Be very careful with the first batch, becuase the cookies are already brown, it’s easy to burn them without realizing it.
  4. Undercooked is preferable to overcooked

Congratulations. You have just made Pat’s very own Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies are not to-die-for; they are to-kill-for.

*Note: Butter will give you a slightly richer tasting, but crunchier cookie. Margarine will give you a softer cookie. I much prefer the margarine cookies over butter.