Tag Archives: Yucatan

A Photo Album From Our Staff Trip in the Yucatán

When we depart for Frontera’s annual staff trip to Mexico , we know we’re in for a whirlwind of food and culture.

We always return to Chicago full of energy, and our chefs at Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO create insanely great menus inspired by our annual destination. This year, we traveled to the Yucatán Peninsula, an area perhaps better known to Americans for its popular resort towns than its ancient Mayan culture.

But to experience the Yucatán only through cozy, all-inclusive comfort is to miss out on a wonderfully vibrant and colorful culture, one that expresses itself through food, art and devotion to history.

We visited a chaotic market in the capital city of Mérida. We traversed ancient Mayan ruins. We dined on authentic Yucatecan poc chuc (“seared pork”) at Principe Tutul-Xiu. We were welcomed into the home of David Sterling, the “Yucatán” cookbook author and culinary expert, at his beautiful home.

Best of all, we unearthed authentic cochinita pibil —that’s suckling pig marinated in achiote, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted in underground pits—and had an amazing meal.

Below is a photo gallery of all-too-brief time in the Yucatán, all taken by XOCO manager Arthur Mullen, who blogged about XOCO’s new Yucatán-inspired menu.

Slow-Cooked Achiote Pork

Just say cochinita pibil in the Yucatan (or practically anywhere in Mexico nowadays), and thoughts of celebration come to mind. After all, in all it’s glory, we’re talking a whole pit-cooked pig, smeared generously with the unique savor of rusty-colored achiote seasoning and served with the meaty cooking juices, a drizzle of habanero fireworks and the citrus-sour of pickled red onion. Truth is, you can make a delicious, satisfying, simple version of Mexico’s big-deal cochinita pibil for an everyday dinner. You just have to scale back the normal party-size portions, use prepared achiote seasoning and employ a slow-cooker (or Dutch oven, for oven-braising). Using a bone-in pork shoulder roast offers a rich flavor reminiscent of the whole pig version, and slow-cooking equals delicious satisfaction. Fried black beans, a salad and warm corn tortillas are my favorite accompaniments for this slow-cooked wonder. A final note: hot yellow chiles (like Hungarian wax) are commonly cooked with the meat in Yucatan. If that appeals, split them in half, take out the seeds and lay, cut side down, over the meat.