|Adobo De Achiote|
The spice grinder method: In a spice grinder, pulverize the achiote as finely as possible, then dump it into a small bowl. Pulverize the allspice and black pepper (if you're using whole) along with the oregano, and add to the achiote. Sprinkle in the civer vinegar and mix throughly (it'll be a damp powder at this point and won't hold together). roughly chop the garlic, sprinkle it with salt, then, right on your cutting board, use the back of a spoon or the side of a knife to work it back and forth into a paste. Little by little, work in the spice mixture (it probably still won't hold together) Last, work in a tablespoon or two of water, if it's needed to give the mixture the consistency of a thick paste.
The minichopper method: Pulverize the achiote,allspice, peppercorns, and oregano together with the sharp blade. Add the vinegar to the spices, along with the garlic and salt. Pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped, then let the machine run until everything is as smooth as possible. Dribble in a tablespoon or two of water, if it's necessary, to bring everything together into a thick, pasty consistency.
Advance Preparation: This seasoning will last for several months in the refrigerator, if tightly covered (small jar)
Traditional dishes that use this essential as a starting point: yucatecan Grilled Fish Tacos, Achiote Roasted Pork Tacos, Achiote Rice Supper with Pork Carnitas, Achiote Grilled Turkey Breast, Tomato Braised Grouper
Achiote is the saffron of Mexico: If it's not fresh or if it's used in tiny pinches, the orangey color is all you notice. More than a pinch of fresh achiote gives any dish an exotic, earthy perfume that to me is as captivating as good, mushy saffron; it's certainly less expensive. you'll know you've got fresh achiote when the little chalky feeling seeds have a punchy aroma and a vibrant rusty color that's more red than orange.
Though in Oaxacana they make "pure" achiote paste (it has only a little salt, augar and acid added), it is the Yecatecan garlic flavored, spice riddled achiote paste that most Mexican use. Even in the States, Yucatecan achiote paste is available in most concentrated flavors (some of the commercial brands contain fillers), and it's really very simple.
Smeared over fish before it's grilled, slathered on pork before it's braised or roasted stirred in tamal dough before it's steamed-achiote reveals the genius of Mexican cooks. Not spicy-hot here, but spicy-complex without chile. My version nods more in that direction than some I've encountered. Silvio Campos, a Yucatecan who came to Frontera grill to make his famous pork pibel, make his with double the achiote of mine and half the spices. Try that version for an even more ture-to-achiote flavor. Rick Bayless,"Mexican Kitchen"
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