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.

Hardware:

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

Software:

  • 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

Preparation:

  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.

Cooking:

  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.

Notes:

  • 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.

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