Poc Chuc: Mayan-Style Marinated Pork

A bit of business to get out of the way before we begin: this is not “authentic” poc-chuc, and we’re not trying to make authentic poc-chuc. Why is that? The ubiquitous Yucatecan restaurant dish, which consists of of thin, flattened pork, marinated in orange juice, and served with pickled onions and fresh corn tortillas, as prepared by most restaurants, simply isn’t that interesting. Blasphemy, you say?

Poc-chuc, the way the Mayans did it, began its humble history not so much as a delicious way to prepare food, but as a means of preservation. Tough, wild pig was pounded out flat to tenderize the meat, and then cured with a salt brine. It could last this way for months, before the salt was rinsed off, and the pork was cooked over an open fire. Somewhere along the line, those rascally pyramid-building so-and-sos realized that, during the rinsing stage, the preserved meat would taste marginally better if it was rinsed in locally-available sour orange juice instead of water, and would taste even BETTER if it was then buried in a mound of habanero peppers.

Most authentic poc-chuc recipes, as used by both the home cook and in many restaurants, calls for the same brine-marinade-grill method of preparation, with the same palette-numbing results. We wanted to see if we could take some of the basic flavors of the dish, and brighten them up a bit, using thick cut pork chops instead of flat-pounded cutlets. It may not be strictly “authentic,” but it is delicious, uses readily available ingredients, and doesn’t bog you down with all that brining business.

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Poc Chuc: Mayan Style Marinated Pork


  • Author: Meal Hack
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Ingredients

For the pork

  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 ounces achiote paste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Four thick-cut bone in pork chops

For the Mango Habanero Salsa

  • 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and deveined
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 23 mangos, peeled
  • 2 tbls fresh ginger
  • 12 habanero peppers (to taste)
  • 1 tbls honey
  • 2 limes

Instructions

For the pork

  1. Combine first five ingredients in blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Cover pork chops and marinate, refrigerated, overnight. Grill on hot grill or under broiler until crusty, caramelized bits form. Serve with beans, pickled onions, corn tortillas, and for extra pizazz, top with…

Mango Habanero Salsa

  1. Chop first four ingredients as finally as possible, or until you run out of patience, and combine in a medium-sized bowl. The amount of mangos you use will depend on your proficiency with removing the flesh from the pit, but it shouldn’t take more than three. Add minced habanero peppers to taste, remembering that as the salsa sits, a lot of the heat will mellow. Finally, add the juice from two limes, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

 

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Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.

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