A few weeks ago I drove to Chicago on my own for a weekend of racing at the Chicagoland Inline Marathon. I attended this race countless times before but always traveled with other skaters. The 9-hour drive was decidedly not fun but I did enjoy the freedom to explore Chicago on my own between races. My wallet had the misfortune of visiting the AllSaints outlet store in Rosemont Fashion Outlets. My belly, on the other hand, had the pleasure of finally brunching at Rick Bayless’ XOCO. Every time I connect through O’Hare Airport, I always stop at Torta Frontera for a quick meal. Oh XOCO’s churros and bean-to-cup chocolate were everything I hoped for and more!
As always, I ordered too many things. My brunch consisted of eggs & chorizo empanada, sikil pak, Oaxacan chocolate biscocho, churros with dipping chocolate, and Aztec hot chocolate. It was a feast. The hot and crispy churros with their cinnamon sugar coating were great on their own but absolutely amazing after a dunk in the silky chocolate sauce. The pumpkin seed dip of sikil pak opened my taste buds to a new experience and I’ve been itching to try making it at home since. I am so glad to finally visit XOCO after four years of missed opportunities.
As you can imagine, I am a little infatuated with Bayless’ Mexican cuisine. I do not own any of his cookbooks yet but came across his newly posted recipe of slow cooker cochinita pibil. He translated the traditional achiote seasoned whole pit-cooked pig into an easy-to-cook dish suitable for weeknight dinners at home. Brilliant!
Just because the dish was simplified doesn’t mean the flavour was compromised. All the traditional elements remain: tender pork, flavourful pork bones, tangy lime juice, achiote, onion, even down to the fragrant banana leaf wrapping. Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine was as soon as I read the recipe!
The preparation was incredibly easy. I lined the slow cooker with banana leaves and nestled boneless pork butt, ham bones, and sliced onions into the pot. A marinade made with achiote, lime juice, and salt infused the pork with intense flavour over 6 hours of low heat. The pork turned fork tender and I reduced the sauce until it was thick and syrupy. After an overnight rest in the fridge, I removed a thick layer of fat from the sauce and tossed the pulled pork evenly with the flavourful sauce.
For a quick family dinner, I served the cochinita pibil in tacos. Warm corn tortillas were filled with juicy pulled pork, lime juice pickled red onion, chipotle salsa, and cilantro. Traditionally, the taco would be served with habanero hot sauce. I am not a fan of spicy food so I dialled down the heat by using store-bought chipotle salsa. The additional smokiness contrasted nicely with the tangy crunchy pickled onions. The best part? Dinner for the next few nights are already taken care of! How can I not love the convenience of slow cooker?