Ten Minute Cooking School: Puerco Pibil

So, here’s a posting about how to make this dish. It helps if you live near an Asian grocery store or Hispanic market for a few of the ingredients. Sorry for the all caps on the ingredients, but here they are.

Dry Ingredients:

Liquid mixture:
8 cloves GARLIC (or, 3 TBSP fresh bottled variety);
1 healthy shot FINE TEQUILA (Patron is a great brand and they have mini bottles with the perfect amount)

1 pkg. (pound) BANANA LEAVES
5 pounds PORK BUTT

A pair of disposable latex gloves for the habanero peppers (you’ve been warned)
A spice/coffee grinder… buy a cheap one, I did for $12, and use that instead of using the one you grind coffee with, or your coffee will taste like achiote paste! But you’ll tear up your arms if you try grinding by hand.
A glass blender (plastic can soak the smell and taste of the mixture)

After unwrapping your new grinder, you’re going to make it smell like achiote paste forever. If you don’t want to, you’ll have to settle for the ground spices, but, a) buy the best ground spices you can get, not the cheap stuff… and, b) it won’t yield nearly the full flavor of freshly grinding your own.

Lop into the grinder all the annatto seeds, allspice, cumin, peppercorns and cloves. Rip them apart until they’re a fine powder. As you do, you’ll smell that fresh spice smell which will permeate your home when you bake! Set the mixture aside.

Pull out a blender or large glass bowl and pour the orange juice, white vinegar, salt and garlic. You can use a juicer to add to your dishes or hold your clean hand out and juice the lemons through your hand, which will catch the seeds (make sure not to leave any seeds in!).

Cut the butt. Cube the pork into 2 inch squares with a sharp knife. Put them into a good quality, 1- gallon zip locking bag. Grab a glass chopping board and 2 habanero chilies. If you can’t find them, get 3 Serrano or 3 jalapeno chilies. Google the Scoville Heat Unit to see where the chilies stand. Put on your latex gloves (you can find a pkg. of them — the thin, operation kind, not the thick cleaning kind — at many dollar stores). Carefully cut them open and remove the seeds and veins, unless you love the higher heat index. Your friends might not, and if they bite a seed, they may never be your friend again. Chop the chilies finely, being careful not to spray chili juice, which will hurt your eyes or nose.

Once finely chopped, put them into the juice mixture. Wash the knife and board with the gloves still on your hands. Do a quick soap of the gloves, rinse thoroughly, then carefully take them off being careful not to touch the exposed side with your bare hands. Okay, you want to test to see how hot, even after washing? put one of those exposed latex fingers in your mouth and you’ll see! Throw the gloves out, then add the dry to the wet, and mix in the blender (or mix as you slowly add the dry to the wet in the bowl).

Pour the mixture into the bag o’ butt. Then open that mini bottle of fine sipping tequila (don’t think that the Jose stuff or cheap brand will work as well…. Margarita tequilas just don’t cut it. Get an anejo first, or reposado, but the Silver will do if that’s all you can find.

Right before closing the bag, pour the full shot in… not a small shot, a full splash. Seal the bag, mix it all together and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or better, overnight. That allows the meat to tenderize, and the longer you wait the better. Once or twice overnight, gently shake the bag.

Pull your frozen banana leaves out to thaw them and pull the bag of mixture out, making sure to shake it again. Line the bottom of your oven with a sheet of large size foil. Once the leaves are thawed, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grab a 13X9X2 inch glass dish. Line the dish with half of the package banana leaves. You don’t trim the leaves; let them extend well past the dish. Pour the mixture into the banana leaf bowl, and fold the extended leaves back over and on top of your mixture.

Then take some foil and tightly cover your dish. Pull out the center rack and place the dish on the center, be gentle about pushing it back, close and let it cook for a full 4 hours, making sure not to open the oven for any reason. Cook rice (or if you’re pressed for time, get some from a Chinese carryout), open your dish and flake the meat, which allows it to absorb all the sauce. Serve over rice and with some cold sipping tequila (if you’re over 21, by U.S. law). But make sure your friends don’t follow the code of “Sands (Johnny Depp)” who seeks balance in life. He offs those who are too bad or make things too well, like a chef, for making the best Puerco pibil he’s ever had. So watch your back!

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