Town cooks--elderly women who grew up with the old recipes-- prepared it for a luncheon, where they served the fruity pork mixture in split bolillos (above). You could call this a local version of a pulled pork sandwich.
The relleno turned up again at a tasting staged by local restaurants. Carmelitas, which is in the center of Zihuatanejo, presented it in a steaming iron pot (above). Another container held tamales de ceniza, flat ash-flavored tamales that served as a base for the meat.
I loved this unusual dish and went to Carmelitas to see if I could learn more about it. I was in luck. María del Carmen Ramírez de González, who runs the restaurant, was there. It's usually made with a large cut of pork, she told me, maybe a whole pig, and then is cooked overnight in an adobe oven.
My stove can't accommodate anything that big, and I had to make do with a small roast, which I marinated overnight, as María del Carmen instructed me. Then I roasted it along with assorted fruits and vegetables (above), minus one ingredient that was beyond my scope--fresh pork skin.
Lively and fun, with bright tropical flavors (plantains and pineapple), relleno de puerco is a great party dish. The friends who came over to try it included a chef who cut the meat into the neat slices that you see in the photo.
RELLENO DE PUERCO
Carmelitas Restaurant, Zihuatanejo
3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder roast, weighed after fat is trimmed and any bones removed
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, finely crumbled
2 ripe plantains, peeled and cut into thick slices
1/2 small pineapple, sliced into wedges
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yam, about 3/4 pound, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 roma tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1/2 large onion, cut into wedges
4 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs marjoram
Juice of 1 orange
3 tablespoons sweet wine, optional
Place the meat in a large baking dish.
Combine the vinegar, garlic, pepper, cumin and oregano and mix well. Rub this mixture all over the pork. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Drain the meat, shape it into a roast and tie securely. Place the meat in a large roasting pan. Arrange around it the plantain slices, pineapple wedges, potatoes, yam, carrots, tomatoes and onion. Season with salt to taste.
Add the bay leaves, thyme and marjoram. Sprinkle evenly with the orange juice and wine.
Place in the oven and roast, uncovered, 45 minutes. Baste with any juices. Cover loosely with foil and roast 45 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer registers at least 150 degrees (it can go a little higher without any harm).
Watch as the meat roasts. If it browns and dries too much, cover with foil earlier. Start checking the temperature before the end of the cooking time. If necessary, roast longer until the meat reaches the desired temperature.
When done, remove the roast to a cutting board and slice as desired. Arrange the slices on a heated serving platter.
Scoop the fruits and vegetables out of the roasting pan into a casserole. Reheat before serving, if necessary. You can do this in a microwave oven.
Makes 6 servings.