Pollo Pibil − variations using turkey, pork, and salmon are also popular in the Yucatan
- Boneless, skinless chicken, quartered (2.5 to 4 lbs.)
- Garlic cloves (3)
- Onion, peeled and sliced (1)
- Tomatoes, sliced (4)
- Juice of bitter oranges* (4)
- Banana leaves (1 large or 2 small)
- Achiote** paste or red chile paste (2 tbsp.)
- Fresh epazote*** (1 sprig)
- Butter (1 cup)
Mix the achiote paste, orange juice, garlic, and salt well. Add the chicken and marinate for at least 2 hours, poking it with a fork for tenderness. After marinated, pre-heat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius). (Note: The ancient Mayans baked them in a six-foot underground ‘pib,’ a hand-dug pit lined with stones and hot coals.) Place the mixture on top of the banana leaf, and top with tomatoes, onions, epazote, and small dollops of butter.
Fold the banana leaf over the mixture, rolling it over so the weight of the chicken keeps the leaf closed, and tie with an oven-safe string. Place the wrapped chicken in the oven on the top rack, on the lower rack, place an oven-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Bake for about 2 hours until tender. Remove chicken from the banana leaf, and serve with warm corn tortillas, fresh salsa, and pickled red onions.
* Bitter orange (Seville orange) or substitute equal parts of grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice, and white distilled vinegar.
** Achiote paste: slightly bitter, earthy flavor with red annatto seeds, spices, and tomato.
** Epazote (skunkweed): a pungent, slightly bitter herb with a hint of lemon flavor.