|Pibil Chicken with Pickled Onions|
This is where my daughter married her soulmate at a beautiful resort near Playa del Carmen. It was not a beach wedding as you would imagine but an elegant church wedding on the grounds. With such spectacular scenery most people do opt for a beach front wedding in the Riviera Maya, and with miles and miles of jaw dropping white sand beaches that is totally understandable, but there are other options such as a chapel like this one. It was a stunning choice.
What also made the week special was that my sister and I "bunked" together. We live on opposite sides of the country and it was a week filled with laughter and tears. There was a lot of hugging going on. Those of you who know me know that when travelling I cannot stay put for long. I feel a deep seated urge to get out and explore the countryside, meet the people, and investigate the culture…and of course the food. You know I dragged my sister along with me on every adventure!!! Well maybe not dragged, for she was a willing participant.
One day we found ourselves in a small van on our way to local Mayan ruins further inland. In order to travel back in time and experience the ancient Mayan culture you must journey inland to Valladolid. Valladolid is half way between the Caribbean Coast and some of Mexico’s most renowned and important archaeological sites including Chichėn Itzá.
Authentic is a word that is frequently used when describing Valladolid on the Yucatan Peninsula. Time appears to stand still. Sitting in the central square beneath the welcoming shade of the laurel trees we had the opportunity to watch the world go by. The silence was interrupted only occasionally by the hum of scooters weaving among brightly coloured taxis and vintage Volkswagen bugs and the laughter of children as they played. A man on horseback poked out of an alley and clip-clopped down the street reminding you that traveling to Valladolid gives you the ability to experience the rich culture and cuisine of Mexico as it should be experienced at a more leisurely pace.
We ventured down the Calzada de los Frailes, to "Cacao" an organic chocolate collective that produces handmade chocolates, drawing from a tradition that goes back to the ancient Mayans. Farther down the street is the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena, built in the 16th century. Here, we wandered within its stone walls at sunset, exploring the dark stairways as the fading light streamed in through small windows, imagining the hermetic life of the Spanish monks who resided there centuries ago.
Culturally speaking, Valladolid has a layered authenticity. The city is deeply Mayan, from their cuisine that is a dance between sweet and spicy and "heavy on the beans", to the guttural consonants of the Mayan language heard on its streets. Many women still wear the comfortable traditional Mayan "huipil" or white cotton blouses or dresses adorned with bright, flowered embroidery and sold in places like the Mercado de Artesanias, a block from the city’s beautiful, newly refurbished Parque Principal, or central square.
Valladolid is also distinctly Spanish. Founded by invading Spaniards in 1543, its colonnades, pastel coloured stucco and cobblestoned streets give Valladolid an Iberian feel. The central cathedral, a fortress of ascetic Franciscan architecture, is standing room only on Sunday evenings. As in Spain, shops are often shuttered each afternoon for siesta under the hot blazing tropical sun.
The Yucatan peninsula's relative isolation from the rest of the country, coupled with strong Mayan influences, have resulted in a distinctive Mexican regional cuisine, having ingredients and techniques found nowhere else in the country. Achiote (the seeds from the Annatto flower), Chaya (a shrub also known as tree spinach) and Habanero chillies are some of the regional ingredients, and together with Recados (local rubs or marinades that contain dried chilies, spices, herbs and vinegar and are applied to meats and poultry) you have the main pillars of this unique cuisine. Speaking with some of the locals they mentioned that they picked pods from their achiote tree and broke them open to use the seeds for the freshest flavour. For the rest of us, buy it in a 3 ½ ounce brick in a small paper box at a Mexican market, or in my case at the Asian Grocers. They have everything!!!!
|Fish tacos with grouper; Pibil Chicken with Pickled onions at Mesón del Marqués ; making guacamole table side;Sangria|
In Maya, "al pibil" is a technique of slow roasting a variety of meats underground that has been in use for centuries in the Yucatan region. Meats that are cooked in a "pib" are wrapped in banana leaves which keep the meat tender and moist while imparting a unique flavour. The pib, traps in steam and smoke to create its own nuance. Not possessing shovel or a back yard to dig a "pib" I vowed I must try and recreate this authentic Yucatan dish in my own kitchen. The sleepy peninsula wakes up in the city of Valladolid where modern life meets ancient culture. Just like the way your taste buds will come alive when they first taste pollo pibil, an ancient Mayan meal that meets modern ways of cooking.
Yucatán cooks also use sour oranges in the "pibil"dishes, called "su’uts’ pak’áal" in the Mayan language. To me these are known as Seville oranges. Since they are impossible to find here I turned to the experts who have found that a combination of orange, lime, grapefruit, and possibly lemon juices simulate the flavour profile.
Elegantly served in the leaf, the tender chicken, and it's intoxicating aromas take over the kitchen. The "recado rojo", or achiote paste, is the shining star of the Yucatán, and does it's duty in making this pollo pibil version a standout meal. On top of that, the amazing colour from the annato seed in the paste is outstanding. The chicken is traditionally served with red onions which have been pickled with salt and lime juice. You will find the recipe below.
This recipe is loosely based on one I found on the Hispanic Kitchen I also removed the skin from the bone-in breasts. Be sure to marinate your chicken for at least 2 hours or overnight for full flavour. Serve with warm tortillas, beans or corn, and the pickled onions to round out the meal. I served it with a Mexican style quinoa dish, a recipe you will find another time.
**Pibil Chicken (Pollo Pibil)**
Recipe based on Hispanic Kitchen
2 tablespoons recado rojo (achiote paste)
½ cup orange juice
½ cup lime juice
½ cup grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups (or 1 can) chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 green, red or yellow peppers
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
3 small Banana Leaves, soaked for 30 minutes (can be found at most Latino markets)
1 red onion
1 tablespoon salt (I like to use sea salt)
Juice from 3 limes
Combine the recado, orange juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, vinegar, roasted garlic closes, cumin, allspice, chicken broth in the food processor and season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
Pour marinade from the processor into a zip top bag and add chicken breasts. Turn bag to be ensure pieces are covered and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Lay banana leaves on the counter and place a handful of onions sprinkled along the bottom of each one. Top onions with chopped tomatoes and sliced peppers.
Remove chicken from marinade and place in the banana leaves breast side down. Fold the banana leaf to create a package. Tie with a piece of leaf or place the folds of the chicken packet facing down on the bottom of a roasting pan that will fit them all. (If banana leaves are not available, you can always use aluminum foil).
Fill pan with boiling water to about 1-2 inches deep. Cover packets with an additional banana leaf and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove packets from the oven and slit or untie before serving.
For the Pickled Onions: After you put the chicken in the marinade, make the pickled onions. Slice a red onion thinly. Put a layer of onions in a ceramic bowl and sprinkle with salt. Continue to layer with salt, using a total of 1tablespoon. Squeeze 3 limes over the onions. Mix with your fingers, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to marinate until chicken is cooked. The onions will soften when pickled. Stir every so often while the onions are pickling. Serve with the chicken.
You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.