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Mexican Stand-Off: Yucatecan Style

May 1, 2009

img_91131“… you really must try this because it is… Puerco Pibil.  It is a slow roasted pork, nothing fancy, just happens to be my favorite.  And I order it, with a tequila and lime in every dive I go to in this country.  Honestly, that is the best it has ever been – anywhere.  In fact it is too good.  It is so good that when I’m finished with it, I’ll pay my check, walk straight into the kitchen and shoot the cook.  Cause that is what I do, I restore the balance to this country.”  

– Agent Sands from the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico

I recently re-watched this movie and the scene between Johnny Depp’s and Antonio Banderas’ characters inspired me – I was thinking man I gotta try this Puerco Pibil he talks of.  Boy was it awesome – and simple.  Just whip up the ingredients, throw the pork in the oven and walk away.  There is actually a DVD extra of talented director, Robert Rodriguez, preparing this dish.  When done right there is nothing better then slow roasted pork, it just absorbs the flavors added to it perfectly, whether it is smoke, barbecue, a dry rub, or in this case the citrus and anchiote taste of the pibil sauce. 

Puerco Pibil is a dish that originated from the Yucatan area of Mexico.  The Mayan word “pibil” means pit.  So traditionally this dish was a suckling pig, marinated, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in pit.  The main ingredients were bitter oranges, common in the region, and the achiote or annatto seed, giving the dish its rich red coloring.  Lemon is a good substitute for the bitter Yucatan oranges if you can’t make down to the peninsula. 

I cooked the dish on a weeknight as I didn’t have 4 hours to roast it in the oven – so I used a pressure cooker.  It turned out great in 30 minutes.  Not everyone has a pressure cooker so my directions are for cooking in the oven. 

– 4 pounds of pork shoulder or boneless pork butt, cut into large 3″ chunksimg_9101

–  3 handfuls of achiote / annatto seeds

– 1 handful of cumin seeds

– 1 handful of black peppercorns

– 5 or 6 sticks of clove

– 5 or 6 allspice berries

– 1 inch piece of cinnamon stickimg_9116

– 1/2 cup of orange juice

– 1/2 cup of vinegar

– 4 lemons juiced

– 1 shot of tequila

– 6 cloves of garlic

– 1 smoked chipotle pepper with adobo sauce, or 1 seeded jalapeno pepper

– 1 large handful of saltimg_91082

Add the annato seeds, cumin, peppercorn, clove, allspice and cinnamon to a coffee grinder and grind the spices into a powder (now go buy another coffee grinder or your mornings will never taste the same).  Next in a food processor, pulse the garlic and the pepper with the salt.  Next add the orange juice, vinegar, lemon juice, tequila, and your previously ground spices – and blend the mixture together.  In a large casserole dish, add your cut pieces of pork, and pour the liquid pibil mixture over the pork.  Toss and evenly coat the pork in the sauce.  Tightly cover the dish in 2 layers of foil and roast in a preheated 325 degree oven for 4 hours.   You are looking for an internal temperature of about 160 degrees. 

When the meat is finished, remove it from the pan, and let it rest for about ten minutes.  Then pull the meat apart into large chunks with two forks, place pulled pork in a serving bowl, and top with some of the pibil sauce from the pan.  Serve the Puerco Pibil with some rice, tortillas and a simple tomato, onion and jalapeno salsa. 

Don’t shoot the cook.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2009 12:53 pm


    I think I’m going to try this dish this weekend…thanks for the recipe…it looks really tasty.

    I’ll have to do some research on some of these ingredients (annato seeds? what the hell are those?) but I’ll shoot you an e-mail once I’ve made it.

    Thanks for the recipe! Hope you, Jen and Ethan are doing well!


    • vesperbistro permalink*
      May 3, 2009 1:40 pm

      Yeah good luck finding those in the corn belt. You might be able to find them in the international food section of your grocer (maybe at a Whole Foods?). If you can’t find them maybe a handful of paprika as a substitute?

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