It should come as no surprise that when Valerie over at A Canadian Foodie, made the generous offer of inviting local foodies over for a potluck party, I thought about bread. Ok wait, I make bread just about every day so I’m always thinking about the natural goodness of soft, pillow like bread that just begs to be chewed. For arguments sake, let’s just say I wasn’t drooling, er, thinking about bread when I was invited. Which is why I thought, being the bread guy, who wouldn’t want it. Just imagine for a moment; fresh bread, warm from the oven. Maybe filled with olives, or sun-dried tomatoes, or cheese, or quite frankly, just warm and crusty Edmonton sourdough. Low and behold, someone was quicker to the starting block and Valerie soon informed me that bread was taken off the market.
So what should I do? Turn to my friend Agent Sands for help, that’s what. With a shared passion for tasty Mexican fare, and no chance that he’ll show up and shoot me, I figured I would take the opportunity to make his favourite dish; puerco pibil. Simple in design, this Yucatan dish utilizes acid to help break down tough cuts of pork while getting a serious kick of heat from the famous habanero peppers!
5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
5 tablespoons annato seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
3 habanero peppers
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
8 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons salt
1 shot of tequila
banana leaves (optional)
Grind the annato seeds, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, and whole allspice in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Don’t use your everyday coffee grinder though, or you’ll be permeating your beans with some serious flavour. And if you just have a blade style grinder, you might as well just use it for spices from now on and go buy a burr grinder for your coffee. You’ll thank me later
Blend the cleaned and chopped habanero peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, the juice from the lemons, and salt, before combing with the spice mix. Add a splash of good tequila. Either place the cubed pork butt in a large zip lock bag, or in a sealable container and pour in the marinade. Soak for a day, and turn the bag or shake the container a few times to make an even balance. Normally you would line a container (9X13 pan in this case) with banana leaves before sealing with tinfoil. Not only do the leaves permeate the pork with another flavour, but they help keep in the moisture during the long cooking process. With no leaves to be found, and no time to work with frozen ones, I did the old saran wrap trick before sealing with a few layers of heavy foil.
Into the oven for the better part of 5 hours, the dish came out looking worse than it tasted. Maybe that sounds a bit more dramatic than it should, but any time you render down that much fat, some people get a bit weird when they see it. In reality all that was left was soft meaty goodness in a half liquid/fat mix (see above). Deciding to save everyone the trouble of picking around fat (god forbid it adds flavour) I cooled the meat and sauce separately over night. Skimming the now solidified layer of fat on top of my cooled liquid, I combined everything back in a pot, before warming in my oven and heading out the door and across the city….