Celebrated television personality and author Pati Jinich is known for bringing delicious, accessible recipes from her native Mexico to audiences in her James Beard Award-winning series "Pati's Mexican Table." In honor of the 12th season, which centers on a journey through the state of Yucatán, she joined us for an exclusive interview to discuss the culinary specialties of the region and how home cooks around the world can replicate the unique flavors of sumptuous Mexican meals — such as the barbecue pork dish cochinita pibil — from the comfort of their own homes.
"The food from the Yucatán is very rustic, charred, and citrusy," she told us. "There's a lot of food that's cooked underground." If you don't have an underground cooking pit, don't worry. Jinich has a series of tricks for recreating cochinita pibil with tools you already have in your kitchen — and a little help from the internet. "All of these ingredients you can now get in the U.S. or anywhere in the world online," she assured us.
To conjure the rich smokiness achieved from cooking with fire in an underground pit, Jinich created a technique for bringing those flavors to life in any kitchen. "[I have a recipe] for cochinita pibil, which you can make with pork, turkey, or chicken," she said. "I put the meat in the oven, wrap it in banana leaves, and let it roast. [I use the banana leaves] to seal the meat, which replicates the smoky, intense, moist cooking from underground."
Replicating The Smoky Flavors Of Yucatán Cuisine
Of course, a long, slow cook is preferable to mimic the original cooking technique for cochinita pibil, but if you have a little less time in the kitchen and are still eager to recreate some of that depth of flavor you'd expect, Pati Jinich has a fast-track recipe for you. "For cochinita pibil, or for chicken pibil, you [can] make the sauce by roasting a lot of the ingredients, like the tomato, the garlic, the onion — you char or roast them until the skin has practically burned, which is what they do in the Yucatán," she explained. "The roasting and the charring push the ingredients to bring forward an intensity that is hard to find when boiling fresh ingredients."
This technique can help intensify all of your ingredients, especially any inspired by Yucatán cuisine. "If the tomatoes [you're using] are sweet and you roast or char them, they will become that much sweeter, and juicier — the flavor comes forward that much stronger. You can make a seasoning sauce by charring or roasting the ingredients and also by toasting the spices," Jinich said. For the cochinita pibil, the next step is to add "cooked chicken, turkey, or pork." Then, your dish becomes "rich, exciting, and delicious without having to dig an underground pit in your backyard," she said.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.