Puling Some Bastardized Pork


The original recipe called for some crazy banana leaf action, and digging a pit in the earth to properly cook a piece of pork, but I bastardized it with a slow-cooker twist because if you think I’m going to wrap a piece of meat in a leaf and sink it into the dirt of my backyard, well, you don’t know me at all. This recipe for Conchinita Pibil, modified from a recent New York Times Magazine story, is a spicy take on the traditional pulled pork. Here, an assembly of spices (and some judicial charring and spice-toasting) works to inject some badly-needed life into our pulled pork doldrums. It’s the perfect recipe for fall, when one brings the slow-cooker back into the kitchen, and it produces some exquisite aromas to welcome everyone back inside.

Cochinita Pibil, with a Slow-Cooker Twist

-        1 pork shoulder (3-4 lbs)

-        4 Tbsp. salt

-        4-6 garlic cloves, peeled

-        1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

-        1 Tbsp. black peppercorns

-        1 teaspoon whole allspice

-        1 Tbsp. red chili powder

-        ½ teaspoon whole cloves

-        ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

-        1 Tbsp. Mexican oregano

-        4 Tbsp. achiote-seed paste (See substitute below if not available)

-        1 orange, zested and juiced

-        1 grapefruit, zested and juice

-        1 lime, juiced

-        1 small white onion, thinly sliced


- 1 red onion, chopped

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1 habanero, seeded and finely chopped

Corn tortillas

  1. Score fat of the pork and evenly salt the meat while making marinade. In dry saucepan over medium heat, toast garlic cloves until charred all over, then remove. In same pan, add cumin, peppercorns, allspice, red chili powder, cloves, and cinnamon. Toast until you can really smell cumin and pepper. Grind spices in food processor until smooth, with oregano, charred garlic, achiote paste, citrus zest and half of citrus juice. {For slow cooker, I kept spices whole and didn’t use food processor, simply mix juice and spices together in bowl.)
  2. Set slow cooker on high and place pork in it, fat side down. Add sliced onion around and coat meat with citrus juice and spice mixture. Cook on high for an hour or two, then switch to low and cook overnight (at least 10 hours).
  3. Remove meat from cooker and shred with two forks, removing fat. Strain out solid spices from remaining liquid, then return meat to cooker to keep warm until serving. Serve in soft tortilla shell, with chopped onion, pepper, and salt if desired. Lime juice may also be used.
Achiote seed paste substitute:
  •        2 Tbsp. paprika
  •        1 ½ Tbsp. white vinegar
  •        1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •        ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  •        1 clove garlic, crushed

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