We are huge fans of barbecued pulled pork, as you know. But lately we've been feeling the urge to break out of the mold. When this recipe for cochinita pibil come up on Simply Recipes, we were immediately captivated by its description of pork shoulder braised in orange juice and Mexican spices. We just knew it would hit the spot!
Cochinita pibil is a traditional Mexican braised pork dish. Hank Shaw, this recipe's author, calls it "gorging food" best eaten with lots of rice, fresh toppings, and cold beer. We couldn't agree more!
It also couldn't be simpler. All you do cut the pork shoulder into chunks and then marinate it in orange juice, lime juice, and achiote paste for several hours. Everything goes into a pot in a warm oven and braised until the pork is fall-apart tender. Your house will smell amazing.
We took a few liberties with the recipe. First off, we couldn't find achiote paste and ended up substituting about two tablespoons of chili powder, a tablespoon of smoked paprika, and a tablespoon of garam masala. The garam masala was a gamble, but we threw it in because many of the descriptions of achiote paste said it included many of the same warm spices that are found in garam masala.
We also braised our pork in a dutch oven instead of sealing it in aluminum foil in a casserole dish as the recipe suggests. It sounded to us like the main idea was to prevent moisture from evaporating and to create an even heat all around the pork, and a dutch oven is ideal for this!
Our cochinita pibil came out beautifully. The meat was incredibly tender and deeply flavorful from the overnight marinade and slow cooking. The sauce was an interesting blend of tart, sweet, and smoky with just the right amount of spice (thanks to a spicy chili powder blend). Mixed in with the pork and spooned over warm rice, this savory dish was exactly the twist on pulled pork we were looking for!
We'll be keeping our eye out for achiote paste. This was so good that we definitely want to try making it with the spices the recipe actually called for.
• Get the Recipe: Cochinita Pibil from Hank Shaw on Simply Recipes
(Images: Emma Christensen)