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
- Pressure cooker, at least 6 quarts (When I wrote this, I used a giant Kuhn Rikon 12-quart pressure cooker, now I always use my Instant Pot)
- Don’t have a pressure cooker? No worries. 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? 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.
- Achiote paste stains whatever it touches. (Ground annato seeds, the base for achiote paste, are used to make red dye.) I try to contain the mess in a glass or metal bowl (not plastic – it will also stain). 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.
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art
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