"A" is for Achiote Seeds.


Achiote or Annatto seeds are not something that I typically work with. They have a very rich flavor and bright red color which is used to enhance the flavor in some meat and rice dishes. What I have done in the past with annatto seeds is steep them in hot oil to extract the flavor and bright red color into the oil. Today, I am using the flavor pairing recommendations of pork and Mexican cuisine and making a recipe of Cochinita Pibil. Original recipe that I followed can be seen here.


 

pork shoulder, orange + lime juice, yellow onion, spices, annatto seeds, garlic paste.

I cooked a half portion of the recipe, and make the following modifications:

  • I had some fresh lime juice on hand, so I decided to follow the recommendation of substituting the bitter orange juice with equal parts fresh orange and lime juice.

  • No measured salt, ever! If a recipe calls for salt that is intended for seasoning, I always ignore the quantity and season by eye in the beginning and to taste at the end.

  • I have a TON of ground spices on hand. So instead of using whole black pepper, cumin, ans allspice, I used ground instead and cut the measurement needed in half.

  • No banana leaves. I know they would be something that I would have to buy more than what I needed from the grocery store, and then have them sit in my freezer forever. So instead of lying to myself that I will use them again soon, I will omit them from the recipe and make due without them.

Here are the new quantities of ingredients that I used:

  • 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder

  • 2 T fresh orange juice

  • 2 T fresh lime juice

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp cumin

  • 1/8 tsp allspice

  • 1 T + 1 1/2 tsp annatto seeds

  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed to paste

  • 1/2 tsp oregano

  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced


 

After measuring out all of the ingredients, the first action is to grind the annatto seeds. The recipe calls for a spice grinder. I do not have a spice grinder in my kitchen, so I used my Vitamix(God bless the Vitamix) and it worked great! Next, you add all ingredients into the bowl with the pork, season with salt, lightly coat with oil, and mix to evenly combine. Transfer to an oven safe baking dish and insert into a 400 degree oven.

Since the original recipe calls for the pork to be wrapped in banana leaves, you would be able to bake at 400 for over 2 hours. But if you put this pork in the oven as is for over two hours, the pork will burn. I do want some caramel color on the pork, so I baked it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes...


after roasting for 30 minutes at 400 degrees

After 30 minutes at 400 degrees, rotate the pan and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. After an additional hour, rotate the pork pieces in the pan, and rotate the whole pan in the oven. Rotating is always a great idea when slow roasting meat, because ovens tend to have hot spots. Cook for another hour and check on it again, but it may need another 30 minutes or so until it is fork tender.



after 2 1/2- 3 hours of roasting

 

Voila! Tender, delicious, beautiful Cochinita Pibil. Save the drippings from the bottom of the pan to maximize the amount of annatto flavor into the pork. When the pork is cooled down slightly, remove the excess bits of fat, and shred into smaller portions if desired. You can make a full meal utilizing this pork by serving it with rice and a vegetable side dish. Makes for a great dinner or even a quick lunch. It is a great, simple meal with lots of flavor. It can also be easily reheated in the microwave if needed, or frozen for later use.







Resources

  • Pete's Fresh Market in Oak Park. Most of the ingredients used to make the recipe came from Pete's. It is a wonderful grocery store with fresh produce, a great deli and bakery, and much more.

  • Epicurious. When I am making a recipe for the first time, or just need a guide to get the right ingredients, I trust recipes from Epicurious to get pointed in the right direction.

  • Vitamix. Ask any Chef, by far the best blender and the only one you'll ever need or should ever buy. It is way more than a blender, not all blenders have horsepower.

  • As always, The Flavor Bible. If you don't have it and you love to cook, buy it.

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