Holiday dining at home: Chicago chef Raul Gutierrez’s cochinita pibil recipe

“Cochinita pibil is prepared and used for multiple dishes like tacos, tortas or panuchos. It is always served with a salsa called xnipec,” says chef Raul Gutierrez.

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Big Bowl’s executive chef and partner Raul Gutierrez finishes plating a traditional serving of cochinita pibil in tacos. 

Big Bowl’s executive chef and partner Raul Gutierrez finishes plating a traditional serving of cochinita pibil in tacos.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

We asked Chicago chefs to share their favorite holiday recipes, dishes that reflect their cultural traditions, and to tell us why the recipes mean so much to them. Here is one recipe to make at home during the holiday season or any time of year.

Chef Raul Gutierrez, Executive Chef

Big Bowl, 60 E. Ohio

Dish: Cochinita Pibil

“This recipe has been in my family for generations. My wife Maria and I prepare this for our family gatherings and celebrations. This dish dates back to the pre-Hispanic times of the Mayan civilization.

“It originates in the peninsula of Yucatan. Pibil comes from the Mayan word pib, which means ‘cooking underground’; where the meat cooks slowly until tender. One of the main characteristics of this dish is that it is cooked with achiote (annatto seed); it is derived from a small tree that produces a seed that when it matures it turns orange and is used as a condiment. For this dish in particular, it is mixed with fresh citrus juices and more spices.

“The high acid content of the marinade and slow cooking time tenderizes the meat, allowing otherwise tough pieces of meat to be used. Cochinita Pibil is prepared and used for multiple dishes like tacos, tortas or panuchos. It is always served with a salsa call xnipec. This sauce is made with red onions, habanero pepper, cilantro and sour orange. It is also eaten with side dishes such as yellow corn tortillas, red pickled onions, refried black beans and habanero chilies.” — Chef Raul Gutierrez

Cochinita Pibil

Serving Size: 6-8 people

Big Bowl’s executive chef and Partner Raul Gutierrez plates his Cochinita Pibil with rice and beans.

Big Bowl’s executive chef and Partner Raul Gutierrez plates his Cochinita Pibil with rice and beans.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ingredients:

Adobo Sauce (makes 2 cups):

  • 1 tube (3 - 4 oz.) achiote paste (chef recommends El Yucateco Paste Achiote)
  • ⅓ cup fresh orange juice
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry Mexican oregano (regular oregano will also suffice)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ancho chile
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • ½ cup canola oil

For cochinita pibil:

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • banana leaves, roasted as needed

Directions:

For adobo sauce:

1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth, set aside.

For pork:

1. Cut the pork into 4-inch chunks.

2. Add in 1 cup of the adobo sauce and let marinade for about 24-hours in the refrigerator.

3. Reserve the rest of the adobo sauce

Marinated pork shoulder is swaddled in banana leaves in chef Raul Gutierrez’s recipe for Cochinita Pibil.

Marinated pork shoulder is swaddled in banana leaves in chef Raul Gutierrez’s recipe for Cochinita Pibil.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

For cochinita:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Using tongs, carefully cook the banana leaves over a low flame on your stove top until soft, a few seconds on each side.

3. Place the banana leaves in a baking pan.

4. Add the marinated pork on top of the banana leaves.

5. Cover the marinated pork with another layer of banana leaves, so it is completely covered by the leaves. If you do not have enough banana leaves, it is OK to just cover with foil.

6. Cover the dish in aluminum foil and place in the oven.

7. Cook at 350 degrees for about 2.5 to 3 hours (depending on how big the chunks of pork are cut).

8. Ensure the meat is nice and tender and use a fork to shred the meat, it should easily come apart.

9. Mix the shredded meat with all of the juices in the pan.

10. Serve alongside rice and beans and enjoy!

Big Bowl’s executive chef/partner Raul Gutierrez fills a banana leaf-lined dish to cook the pork as he prepares Cochinita Pibil.

Big Bowl’s executive chef/partner Raul Gutierrez fills a banana leaf-lined dish to cook the pork as he prepares Cochinita Pibil.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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