When I was a kid, Mexican food was the ultimate in sub-optimal ethnic cuisine. I remember in particular, one ghastly little Mexican take-away in Mortdale; a dingy, one-room place, with three Formica-topped tables, a string of Christmas lights and a couple of those posters that you get for free from travel agents.
One showed the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, in Teotihuacan and one showed bikini-clad nymphets on the beach at Acapulco. Of course, the menu featured tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos and not much else. And we thought that was real Mexican cuisine! A bunch of cornchips and tortillas!
Of course, Sydney now has a bunch of real Mexican restaurants and take-aways. It’s wonderful! You can get mole poblano in Sydney restaurants now. Marvelous! I saw pazolé on a menu in Newtown! Joy! I actually heard a waitress say mancha manteles!
Rapture! Now we get to cochinita pibil. A favourite dish of mine, it’s a kind of carnitas, marinated, slow-roasted pork, shredded and re-roasted, then cooked in a thick gravy, made from the pan juice. It’s great! This dish, like a lot of traditional dishes, has as many variations as there are Mexican grandmas. Anyhoo! Here’s my recipe for …
Comida Mexicana - Cochinita Pibil
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Ingredients For Comida Mexicana - Cochinita Pibil Recipe
- 2kg free-range, organic pork neck.
- 6 peeled garlic cloves, 6 small red chillies, salt, ½ cup lime juice.
- 2 onions, 2 chicken stock cubes.
- 1 onion, 6 peeled garlic cloves, 1 bunch green coriander, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, olive oil, tequila, 2 tbsp tomato paste, pimentón ground cumin, salt, pepper.
- Trim the pork of any excess fat, skin or sinew. Put the pork aside.
- Pound the garlic, the chillies and a big pinch of salt together in a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
- Add the lime juice and mix them well together. Marinate the pork overnight in this mixture, turning the pork over once or twice.
- The next day, take the pork out of the marinade and let it drain.
- Peel the onions and slice them thinly. Place the sliced onions in the bottom of a slow cooker.
- Place the pork on top of the onions and add a coffee-mugful of water and the stock cube.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook the pork on LOW for four hours. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker and place the meat back in. Cover the pork and cook it on LOW for two hours longer.
- Peel and chop the onion and garlic, and wash and chop the coriander.
- Gently fry the thyme, onion, garlic, coriander, pimentón and a huge pinch of cumin (half a handful really) in some oil, until the onion looks transparent.
- Add a few shots of tequila, the tomato paste, and the liquid from the slow cooker.
- Mix it all together and simmer the lot at a low heat while the pork is cooling, until the gravy is very thick and syrupy.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings; it may need some salt or pepper.
- Shred the pork finely with your fingers; it should be tender enough to fall apart. Oil a big baking dish, add the pork shreds and roast the pork at 220ºc (450ºf), turning it over every ten minutes until the pork looks crisped and gilded.
- Add the pork shreds to the gravy and mix them together well. Simmer the mixture for about fifteen minutes.
You can serve the pork on rice or with tortillas or on tacos. It’s very versatile. If you’re going to serve it on rice, have some sour cream, chopped raw onion, grated raw carrot and warm tortillas on the table.
If you want it in burritos or tacos, serve it with warm tortillas or taco shells, cheese, lettuce, American chilli sauce (NOT sweet chilli sauce!), sour cream and a salad of tomatoes, green coriander, red onion, salt and lime juice. Either way, it will blow your brains out!
I must confess that using a slow-cooker in this dish is kind of my idea. In Mexico, they roast the marinated pork wrapped in wet banana leaves. The slow-cooker lets you wet-roast it, without the banana leaf.
Of course, you could use banana leaf; they sell them in supermarkets in Sydney and I guess they sell them elsewhere too.