Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Achiote Pork Sandwiches

What is achiote?  It is a seed - the annatto seed, from the achiote tree.  One thing that it's used for is to make yellow food coloring.  But also, it has great flavor, and is used in cooking.
This sandwich is made with pork tenderloin that has been marinated in achiote, citrus, and other spices and then grilled.  The meat is succulent and tender and the flavor is bright and delicious.  The pork can certainly stand on it's own - serve it with beans and rice, tortillas, or in a salad.  Perfect!  But, of course, it makes a most pleasing sandwich, too.
This recipe is somewhat loosely adapted from Mexico: One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless.  The preparation of the pork is a cinch.  And, as an added bonus, the leftovers (if there actually are any) are wonderful!

Achiote Pork Sandwiches
Adapted from Rick Bayless

Marinade -
1 oz achiote (anatto) seeds (about 2 1/2 tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Rounded 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Sauce -
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed (enough marinade for 2 tenderloins, if desired)
4 sandwich rolls
4 deli slices of cheddar cheese, each cut in half
Shredded cabbage (about 1 cup)

*Achiote color is intense.  It is recommended that you do food prep on a cutting board.  Take care with any stainable surfaces (bleach takes the stain right off of formica, but some materials are porous).

1.  For the Marinade: place the achiote seeds in a spice grinder.  Grind until fine.  Add the oregano, pepper, cumin, and cinnamon.  Grind until fine and blended.

2.  Stir the ground spices together with the garlic, orange juice, and lime juice.

3.  Place the tenderloin into a gallon Ziplock bag (I set the bag into a bread pan).  Pour the marinade over the pork.  Move the pork around until it is completely coated.  Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal the top.

4.  Marinate the pork for at least 4 hours (8 is better), turning the pork in the bag halfway through.

5.  For the Sauce: combine all of the Sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir until completely mixed.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

6.  Clean and oil the grate of a gas grill.  Preheat the grill to medium-high.  You will cook the tenderloin on indirect heat, so plan accordingly.

7.  Remove the pork from the marinade (discard the marinade) and place it  so that it is not directly over the heat.  Close the cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Turn the meat 1/4 of the way (onto its side).  Close the cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Repeat until each side has cooked for 5 minutes.

8.  Continue cooking and turning until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 160° (about 25-30 min total, counting the time already on the grill).

9.  Transfer the pork to a plate.  Tent with foil.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice thinly, across the grain (making disks).

10.  Spread 1 tbsp of the sauce on the top half of each sandwich roll.  Place 1/4 of the sliced meat on each bottom half.  Top the meat with two halves of the cheese per sandwich.  Spread about 1/4 cup of the cabbage over the cheese.  Add the top bun.  Serve!

*The photo shows the cabbage on the sandwich dressed.  My family decided (after the photo was taken) that the dressing, while yummy, distracted from the great flavor of the pork.  Thus, the dressing has been omitted from the recipe.

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