I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yucatan Barbacoa

My latest project was to make shredded pork the way that it is made in Yucatan. In Yucatan they take pork (sometimes a whole pig) and rub it down in spices. Then they wrap it in banana leaves and bury it in a pit in the ground and cook it all day. That particular manner of cooking pork is called barbacoa. Different regions of Mexico do it different ways, but in the Yucatan they use pork. I think they do lamb or goat in central Mexico and beef head in Northern Mexico.

At any rate there are several problems that one encounters when trying to cook barbacoa in the Midwest in winter. First, there are no banana trees around. I know that you can get banana leaves frozen but I just don't have the interest to go that far with it. The other problem is that the ground is frozen, currently with a foot of snow on top. There is not much chance I am going to dig a pit in my backyard right now. So to solve these problems I decided to get creative.

What makes barbacoa different from American style bar-b-que is that the meat is steam roasted rather than smoke roasted. The steam comes from the banana leaves and from the meat juices being tightly trapped in the fire pit. It isn't all that hard to recreate these conditions in your kitchen.

First you are going to have to acquire some achiote seeds. If you are lucky enough to have a source for these at hand, then go buy some. I had to do a google search for achiote seeds. I bought mine over the internet.

Here is a photo of all the ingredients in the barbacoa rub. The achiote seeds are red and in the center of the photo.

So the first step is to make your barbacoa rub. Here is the recipe:

Barbacoa Rub

1 T achiote seeds
2 t oregano
1 T black peppercorns
1 T cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
3 whole cloves
1 inch of cinnamon
1 T salt

Combine the above ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until powdery. Then mix the rub with 10 cloves of garlic and place in a blender with the juice of 1 lime. Blend until smooth. You may need to add more lime juice to get the right consistancy.

Next rub the pork down with your mixture and marinate overnight.

The next day put a piece of tin foil down on the counter and a few lettuce leafs on top of it. Then put your marinated pork on like this:

Next add a few green onions on top of the pork.

Finally, add more lettuce on top and wrap the whole mess in several layers of aluminum foil. Place in a Dutch oven and bake in the oven at 275 degrees for 8 hours. That is assuming that you have a 2 pound pork roast.

Meanwhile you need to make something to eat the pork with. I decided to serve it on tostadas with home made refried black beans. Add a few salsas and you are set.

Hot Hot Hot Sauce

6 tomatillos
1/2 onion
20 dried red peppers (like cayanne)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
a few cloves of garlic

Boil the red peppers for a few minutes and place into a blender. Boil the tomatillos for a few minutes until just starting to soften. Throw everything into the blender and blend until smooth. Return ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool. If you know me personally, ask me for the real name of this hot sauce.

Refried Black Beans

Take 1/2 pound of black beans or more if you like and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Finely dice up 1/2 onion and add to the beans. Add 2 strips of bacon, crumbled, along with their grease. Don't leave out the grease you health nut. Live a little for chrissake! You will need to boil these for one to a few hours or until they are very soft. You will occasionally have to add water. At the end of cooking, taste the broth with the beans. It will be very bland. Add 1 tablespoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of salt and taste it. You will need to adjust the salt to your liking. I usually end up with about 1 tablespoon of salt for a 1/2 pound pot of beans. Now is time for the refried part:

Get a cast iron skillet very hot. Add a little olive oil to the bottom and then dump in the beans. Use a potato masher to mash up the beans. You will have to cook these for a few minutes until it thickens up a bit. You don't want the beans to get too thick because then they just suck. I get mine to about the point of runny mashed potatos. When you let the beans cool they will thicken up considerably.

Oooh the timer just went off! Your pork is done. Lets pull it out of the oven and unwrap it!

My goodness! I am sure that there are multiple local, state and federal laws against pork so perfect, juicy and tasty. Thats OK. We don't need to get the cops involved, this will be our little secret.

Finishing Your Barbacoa

To prepare the pork I shredded it using two forks and put it into a bowl. I added the juice of one lime, 2 t ground cumin, 2 t salt and 2 t chili powder.

Homemade Tostadas
Now is not the time to get lazy. Make your own tostada shells. It is very easy. Buy some corn tortillas. Get a skillet hot on the stove and add some oil. Drop the tortillas in the oil one at a time. When one side starts to bubble up flip it over. When it looks done fish it out of the oil with some tongs and put it onto a piece of newspaper. Immediately shake a little salt over.

To serve, put a little refried beans on the tostada and top with pork. Add the fixins that you like. I added a little pico de gayo, some guacamole, my secret-named hot sauce, and a tomatillo/chipotle hot sauce.