Puerco Pibil; a dish to die for ♥
“You really must try this because it’s puerco pibil. And honestly, that is the best it’s ever been anywhere. It’s so good that when I’m finished, I’ll pay my check, walk straight into the kitchen and shoot the cook.” Johnny Depp as Agent Sands
I’m in love with a new dish. It came to me unceremoniously, written in hand, on a scrap of paper. It was very nondescript and so therefore I tucked it into a “safe” place for another day. The other day arrived, a month ago, two years later.
This time of year always inspires slow cooked meals for me. I was leafing through the “Pork” recipe folder looking for something like that and there it was. The time had come. I prepared it and then cooked it for HOURS! While it was cooking the house filled with a smell that could lure the dead out of their graves. I was positively slobbering every time I lovingly stirred it. By the time dinner came and we pulled this masterpiece out of the oven, we literally could not wait another second to eat this dish.
Once on our plates and in our mouths, we were not disappointed. Way far from it, the flavors exploded on our taste buds and set us into a fit of moans. Now I knew why Johnny Depp was killing people over it in the movie, “Once upon a time in Mexico.” It is really that good. I should have suspected it, the friend that had slipped me the recipe is a marvelous cook and she would not give me something that was less than fabulous. Do yourself a favor and make this dish now…not later…..now.
The dish, Puerco Pibil, is a slow roasted pork dish that hails from the Yucatan peninsula. Traditionally this pork dish was done in a pit wrapped in banana leaves. Yeah, not going to happen in the rainy Northwest but crock pots or the oven seems to work fine. In fact that is one of the great things about this dish is that it is slow roasting so is perfect to toss in the crock pot for a busy day.
One of the spices I added is smoked paprika which is my very favorite spice these days. Now, if you have never had smoked paprika, prepare to be taken over. It seems to wind up in everything, unbeknownst to me. My hand just seems to grab that tin with the cute little dahlias on it and make red sprinkles on everything. (You can get it at Mother Nature’s)
Annatto seed paste is a traditional spice from the Yucatan, which you can get at Latin grocery stores or online, I like the Del Mayab brand. The only thing bad about the paste is that it has red food coloring in it. I suggest buying the annatto seeds all ground up and called “achiote molido” available at Amazon. But I found you can make the Puerco Pibil in a pinch with chili powder and it seemed to turn out just fine. Even though the annatto seed paste really adds the flavor of the Yucatan that you really must try. (I’m sure the traditionalist would groan over that!) El Pato enchilada sauce is an amazing sauce that has only wholesome ingredients in it.
The Spice blend
3 teaspoons of smoked paprika
(2 tablespoons of chili powder, if not using annatto seed paste)
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 tablespoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1/2 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
The rest of the ingredients
A 5 pound pork butt or pork loin, cut into 2 inch squares
1/2 package of Annatto Seed Paste
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of lime juice
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes, no salt
1 28 oz can of El Pato red enchilada sauce
Splash of tequila
One medium winter squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
If you have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the spices whole and set aside. I usually use already ground spices and mix them together in a small bowl. Turn on the oven to 325 degrees or your crockpot on low. Add the pork butt to your pot of choice, either the crock pot or an oven sturdy casserole dish. Squeeze the lime and orange juice over the annatto seed paste in a small shallow bowl and mash it with a fork to dissolve it. (Do not skip the citrus juice if omitting the annatto seed paste.) In a big bowl, mix all the other ingredients together with the spices, then pour over the meat.
Cover tightly and bake for 4 hours in the oven stirring when you can’t stand it anymore. (a few times) Or slow cook in the crock pot for 5-6 hours on low and 3-4 hours on high. The last hour it is baking, stir in the winter squash. (Purely my addition to this dish.) Enjoy this luscious dish with a few avocado slices, a slice of lime and a lively salad on the side. (For the pictures I added 2 cut up sweet potatoes the last hour puerco pibil baked).