If you’ve seen Once Upon a Time in Mexico then you’ve probably heard of Cochinita Pibil. In the movie, Agent Sands (a sociopathic killer – played by Johnny Depp) orders Cochinita Pibil and then murders the chefs that cook it too well, in order to maintain balance in Mexico.
“No. I’ll shoot the cook. My car’s parked out back, anyway.”
If you haven’t seen the movie I recommend that you do. And if you haven’t tried Cochinita Pibil I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Wondering what the hell Cochinita Pibil is? Cochinita translates to “baby pig” and pibil means “buried”. It is a Mayan slow roasted pork dish that is traditionally marinated with strong acidic juices and seasoned with achiote and other spices. It is then wrapped in banana leaves, buried in a pit with fire and cooked until perfectly tender.
Hmm … fast-forward to 2009. Somehow I don’t think the landlords would appreciate me digging a pit and burning a baby pig in the yard. Just guessing, but hey. And a whole baby pig? Uhh. No thanks!
Luckily we didn’t have to cook a baby pig. Lucas came across this recipe for Cochinita Pibil and we decided that serving it on the 4th of July would be perfect. We had friends coming over to watch fireworks and this recipe would make lots of tasty, succulent pork for stuffing tacos (and our bellies). We went shopping on the 3rd so we could marinate the pork overnight. I though finding achiote paste at Central Market would be difficult, but it was the banana leaves that were the problem. Thankfully we had just seen them at Fiesta so I knew I could grab them the next morning.
For once we followed the recipe exactly. Refraining from adding extra habaneros almost killed me, but somehow I lived through the experience. After blending up the marinade we poured it in a ziploc bag with the pork and let it do its thing.
The next morning we woke up, cleaned the house and got everything ready for company. I entered some crazy time warp and suddenly it was time to wrap the pork in banana leaves so we could start cooking. But I hadn’t gone to Fiesta yet. Shit! I raced to the store and … are you freaking kidding me??? I couldn’t figure out how to get the amount of banana leaves that I needed from the huge bags in the produce section. They were all wrapped up together and I was so frazzled and confused that I ended up grabbing a huge four pound bag.
When I got home and unwrapped the banana leaves we almost fell on the floor laughing. This was a ridiculous amount of banana leaves.
Wrapping the pork was simple. The leaves were still moist and pliable enough that we didn’t have to wilt them over a burner as recommended. We secured the banana leaves with kitchen string, placed everything in a disposable foil pan and put it on the grill around 3:30 pm. After an hour and a half we added extra hardwood and hickory chips, then met friends at Anvil for drinks.
When we got back to the house around 7:30 the smoke coming from the grill smelled incredible. My hands were shaking with anticipation and once the banana leaves were out of the way I removed a tiny piece of pork to taste it. Bang! I could hear the shot to my head. Thank you, Agent Sands.
We served the pibil with a side of delicious black beans made by a couple of our guests and personalized our tacos with a choice of corn or flour tortillas, cebollas curtidas, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream and a homemade roasted poblano/tomatillo salsa.