Lechón Asado | Achiote and Citrus Marinated Roast Suckling Pig
From Jose Garces' "The Latin Road Home": If you are new to roasting a pig, here are a few tips to guarantee your first venture is a hit. First and foremost, fully submerge that pig in the brine! Brining from snout to tail, ears to hoofs in a combination of salted water and sugar is triply essential: It seasons the meat through and through, bringing out flavor; it tenderizes the meat by beginning to break down the proteins; and it ensures moisture retention so after hours over the fire the pork is not only tasty and tender, but also juicy (rather than dried out). Brining requires 24 to 48 hours, and an additional overnight soak is needed for the marinating step. Also essential is the mojo, because it brings all the delicious flavors of the citrus, garlic, cumin, and herbs (especially oregano), but most importantly because its pronounced acidity is a perfect counterbalance to the fattiness of the meat. Have your butcher clean and dress the pig, and be sure to ask that it be butterflied, so you don’t have to do the work of splitting the animal’s backbone yourself. The Caja China is on my list of great culinary implements of all time, but you don’t have to have one to make yourself a great roast pig; instructions are provided for an oven method as well8 serving(s)
4 gallons water
4 cups kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 whole suckling pig (about 20 pound), cleaned, dressed, and butterflied
1/4 cup achiote paste
1 cup minced garlic (2 heads)
1 cup dried oregano
1 qt vegetable oil
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Arbequina or extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Mojo Criollo (recipe follows)
Black Beans and Rice
To brine the pig, combine the water, salt, and sugar in a nonreactive container (such as a clean plastic 30-gallon trashcan) large and deep enough for the pig to be submerged.
Mix until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Slide the pig into the brine, cover, and refrigerate, fully submerged, for 24 to 48 hours.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
To make the marinade, combine the achiote paste, garlic, oregano, vegetable oil, orange juice, and salt and mix well. Lift the pig out of the brine, discard the brine, and pat the pig completely dry. Place the pig on the baking sheet or in a large nonreactive container and pour the marinade over it, using your hands to rub the marinade all over, inside and out, to completely coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the pig from the marinade, discarding any marinade left in the container.
To roast the pig in a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil and set a heavy-duty rack in the pan. Place the pig skin-side up on the rack and brush the skin with the extra virgin olive oil and salt. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast the pig for 1 hour.
Lower the heat to 325°F and continue roasting for 1 hour more.
Remove the foil and roast until the skin is crispy and the meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour more. Remove the pig from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Once the roasted pig is properly rested, carefully remove the skin in its entirety, one side at a time, using a pair of tongs and a kitchen knife; cut or tear the skin into individual-size portions. From there, simply pull the meat away from the bone.
Season the carved pork with Arbequina olive oil and sea salt. Serve with beans and rice and mojo, and garnish with crispy skin.