By Leonardo Cervantes
Thursday’s cooking demonstration led by celebrity chef Martha Puente consisted of easy cuisines anybody can enjoy at home.
Puente is originally from Mexico and has been cooking food professionally for over 28 years. As a part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Puente showcased one of her favorite cuisines which is Cochinita Pibil.
Cochinita Pibil is a favorite cuisine of those in South Mexico specifically from Yucatàn. That particular region of Mexico is known for its spices.
“In Yucatàn they like to stuff their food with pickled onions and slices of habaneros,” Puente said.
What sets Puente apart from other chefs is that she is willing to show her recipe to anybody who wants to learn.
Puente stated some of the challenges that come with cooking and it totally being luck dependent.
“Sometimes the tomatoes can be right or maybe a little green. You don’t know what’s going on in the produce market or with the meat,” Puente said.
Cochinita Pibil is a humble dish. Key ingredients like achiote, onions and habanero peppers can be found at any local supermarket.
Cochinita Pibil is a versatile cuisine that can be eaten in many different ways.
It can be eaten in tacos, burritos, quesadillas and tostadas. Some like to eat it with a side dish of rice and beans.
Cochinita Pibil starts with pork. It can be the butt or shoulder for example. It shouldn’t be stringy or sticking between your teeth. It’s a nice and tender meat. Puente doesn’t like to drain the fat because that’s what gives it a lot of flavor. “The less stressed you are, the better you’re cooking,” Puente said.
After blending the sauces marinate on the meat.
“You need to give it a lot of heat and the freedom to cook correctly,” Puente said. Puente likes to put plastic wrap to seal the meat.
She leaves the food in the oven for about 3 hours and a half.
“Cochinta was often used as the go-to cuisine on the Day of the Dead.
It was served as a sacrifice of some animal to the goddess. Cochinita Pibil was a dish served by the Mayans,” Puente said.
Puente didn’t enjoy her previous job so she just started cooking and quickly became fond of it.
She learned simply by remembering recipes and repetition and encouraged anybody to give it a try. Puente emphasized how cooking can be a bonding experience. She always cooked with her grandma as a child and that created a closer bond with her.
The final dish was Cochinita Pibil with a touch of cilantro on top, with side dishes of rice and black beans. The plate was topped off with a side of pickled onions and guacamole.
The dish looks amazing as the different colors pop off the plate. “All of the food complements each other. We have sweet, sour, spicy and texture,” Puente said.