Achiote Braised Pork Shoulder

In our meat farm share this month, we received many roasts – pork, beef and lamb…I don’t cook a lot of roasts, so I hit the cookbooks for some inspiration. I knew I wanted to cook the pork shoulder this weekend, so Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday was the winning cookbook – the man knows how to cook pork. I don’t often follow recipes from cookbooks – I love reading them, but mostly use recipes as a jumping-off point to make my own riff on a given recipe. Mexican Everyday is the rare exception where I make most of the recipes as written. In this book, Rick’s recipes are just how I like to cook – rustic, simple dishes.

We’re lucky enough to live very close to Rogers Park Fruit Market, which carries an excellent selection of fresh Mexican ingredients, along with fresh corn tortillas made locally. The achiote spice is pretty easy to find in grocery stores around the city, I use the El Yucateco brand. Banana leaves are found in the frozen food case at ethnic markets, and re-freeze well.

This dish is really easy to make, it just takes a little planning ahead to put everything into the pot, and then let it gently braise in the oven for 3 hours. The finished roast is meltingly tender, and the tart-spicy sauce poured over the pulled meat makes for some of the best tacos you’ve ever eaten. Be sure to make up a batch of the pickled onions to go with the pork, too – they add a bright note to any taco. And be sure to make enough pork for leftovers – the meat is even more flavorful the next day.

Pork Marinade:
2 oz Achiote Paste
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients above in a bowl, mashing the paste to make a smooth, thick marinade. Set Aside.
1 2-3 lb pork shoulder, bone in
1 white onion, sliced
2, 2-foot long sections of banana leaf
1/2 cup water

Pickled onions:
1 red onion, sliced very thin
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a 6-8 quart dutch oven with the two banana leaves – one lengthwise, one crosswise. Set the pork roast inside the banana leaves, and pour the marinade over the pork. Scatter the sliced white onion over the roast, then pour 1/2 cup water around the roast. Cover the roast with the banana leaves, place the cover on the pot, and roast for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, until meat is fully tender.
  1. While the pork is roasting, slice the red onion, toss it in a bowl with the lime juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir and set aside, stirring every so often while the pork roasts.
  2. After 3 hours, Remove the pork from the oven, and gently unwrap the banana leaves. Remove the pork and set on a cutting board. Scoop out the onions and place them in a serving bowl. Remove the banana leaves from the pot and throw away.
  3. Pour the juices from the pot into a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil to reduce the sauce slightly. When the sauce is boiling, any fat should pool around the edges – spoon off the fat and discard. After about five minutes reducing, turn off heat.
  4. With a serving bowl ready, use tongs and a serving fork to quickly pull the meat off the bone and shred, discarding any fat you find along the way. Place pulled pork in serving dish, and spoon some of the sauce over the meat.

Serve with fresh, warm corn tortillas, pickled onions, and either rice or beans.

3 thoughts on “Achiote Braised Pork Shoulder

  1. Mexican Everyday is definitely on my list of cookbooks to purchase. Rick Bayless is amazing, isn’t he?Beautiful photos of your meal. You’re making me crave Mexican food, even though I’ve had it both of the last two days!

  2. Sally, you will not regret picking up a copy of Mexican Everyday – it’s a really accessible cookbook, and several of the recipes have become staples in our house – my chorizo pot recipe is a modified version of another one of his recipes…and his mango-avocado salad with lime-pepita dressing…divine. Rick is definitely amazing…we try to eat at Frontera once a year, and I’ve seen him do demos a few times – he’s just so passionate about his food – it’s infeectious!

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