The first time I had cochinita pibil was in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I was blown away by the tacos filled with tender flavorful pork combined with pickled red onions. This pork dish originates in southern Mexico specifically the Yucatan Peninsula. It was originally prepared by the Mayans in ovens dug into the earth and lined with stones. The meat was wrapped in seaweed or banana leaves and left to roast slowly in its own juices. “Cochinita pibil” basically means baby pig roasted under the ground. Traditionally this pork is marinated for at least eight hours in highly acidic juice and then cooked slowly. Achiote (annatto) seeds is an ingredient often found in the marinade of this dish. I eliminated this ingredient because it is not readily available, so obviously this is not an authentic recipe, but it is muy bueno and easily made at home in today’s kitchen.
As you can see by the title of this recipe I made this dish with veal instead of traditional pork roast. Have you ever tasted veal? Veal is, of course very tender, and it has a fantastic flavor that can’t be matched. If you’ve tried veal then you already know this. What you might not know is that veal is very lean, one of the leanest meats you can buy. To be completely honest I had never cooked with veal, but I have ordered it in a restaurant.
I decided to make veal “a la Mexicana” by giving it a Yucatan and Oaxacan twist. After preparing the veal I added the cochinita pibil to our molotes recipe, which is a common street food, found in Oaxaca.
I used an empanada maker to cook these molotes, but if you do not have an empanada maker you can make them the traditional way by following this molote recipe on our blog.
Both your mouth and your conscience will love this tender and velvety veal.
Cochinita Pibil Veal Molotes with Pickled Onions
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper, preferably whole peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cumin, preferably whole seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 whole garlic head, cloves peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 oranges, juiced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 of a red onion, chopped
- 1 4 pound boneless veal
Pickled Red Onions:
- 2 large red onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 1 cup fresh lime juice
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Make Cochinta Pibil:
- Place oregano, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, salt, orange and lime juice, and red onion in blender container. Cover and blend by pulsing, scraping sides occasionally, about 1 minute. Make several deep cuts in veal roast.
- Place meat in a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over meat. Zip up the bag and massage marinade around so that the meat is well covered. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Remove the meat from the plastic bag and place meat in a roasting pan lined with foil. Cover the meat loosely with foil before baking.
- Bake for 2 hours.
- The meat should be very tender and fall apart easily when pulled with a fork. If not, return to the oven and cook until tender. Cube meat when done.
- Serve the cochinita pibil with warm corn tortillas and eat taco style or make molotes. In either case, don’t forget the pickled onions!
Make Pickled Onions:
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions. Scoop the onions into a glass bowl. Pour enough boiling water to over the onions, wait one minute, then pour the onions into a strainer. Return the drained onions to the bowl and add the lime and orange juice and stir in the salt. Cover and set aside until serving time.
Make Molote Dough:
- In a large bowl thoroughly mix the flours and baking powder. Add the shortening and salt and mix well using your hands. Add water to give the dough the consistency of soft cookie dough. Divide into 12 balls and cover with plastic wrap.
- Using a tortilla press, flatten a ball of the dough between sheets of plastic to make a medium-large (5 to 6-inch round) tortilla. Remove the top piece of plastic.
- Brush each mold of the empanada maker with olive oil.
- Add the tortilla to the empanada maker; add your cubed warm veal and pickled onions on half of the tortilla, and fold over to close the molotes. The molotes will be sealed with the empanada maker. Brush the top of each empanada with olive oil.
- Preheat the IMUSA empanada maker. Once the green light is on, close the lid, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.
- Keep warm in the oven at about 250 degrees F. Best when served warm.