Ok, so this isn’t the most fetching of dishes. But just like your favorite sweatshirt from college, sometimes comfort comes in ratty packages. This particular dish is fabulous not only because it’s flavorful, but because it’s made in a crock pot. You do have a crockpot, don’t you? A crockpot is a working girls best friend. Sure, it may give you 1970’s-housewife flashbacks or, if like me, you weren’t around in the 70’s, 1970’s-housewife imaginings, but I implore you: get over it. Crockpots are brilliant.
My brilliant coworkers, crockpot lovers, all of them, dreamed up a crockpotluck for which we would all lug our crockpots to work and cook in our cubicles! Oh I know what you’re thinking: what a wild and crazy bunch they are! I can almost hear your eyes roll from here. Look, don’t mock us; you have no idea how much glee we got out of this. Our first-annual crockpotluck was this past Monday and this dish was my contribution. I’ve made it several times before and knew it was a general winner. Sadly, I’ll admit that it needed a couple more hours to simmer in order to reach maximum tenderness, but if you aren’t restrained by a midday-scheduled crockpotluck, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Crockpots allow you to cook something all day, without having to hang over the stove, tending a slow-cooking piece of meat. You can leave the house; you can cook while you go to work; you can cook while you sleep; you can prep things the night before, chill the inner pot the overnight and then begin cooking before you’ve had your morning coffee. You can come home to a perfectly cooked meal…and nothing has burned down. It’s amazing. In my mind, the only problem with crockpots is the danger of intense blandness or mushiness. Starches can cook too long and become a gummy, gelatinous mess and underseasoned ingredients seem to leech out any flavor they think they may have had going in. There are a few tips to keeping these things from happening to you.
1) Pick a recipe with robust flavors; if it seems bland going in, it will be bland coming out.
2) In MOST instances (not this one!) you probably want to saute a few ingredients first; saute your onions and garlic and sear your meat-it will add so much!
3) Know your ingredients! Canned beans cannot cook all day; they are fully cooked coming out of the can and should be added near the end of cooking time. Dried beans, on the other hand, need the time to cook properly. Fatty meats? Leave em in there! Chicken breasts with no additional liquid, on the other hand, will dry out if left for 8 hours.
4) Taste and season when it’s done cooking…just like anything you make, you’ll need to adjust the seasonings at the end. Just because a crockpot seems so easy doesn’t mean it’ll season itself.
Just think it through and follow recipes from books you trust, and you’ll be fine.
This recipe comes from Rick Bayless, so you know it has to be good. The tomatillos and peppers and garlic come together to make a zingy sauce thats mellowed with creamy white beans and accompanied by flavorful braised pork shoulder. Like many good braised meat dishes, the longer you cook it, the better; it really does need at least 6 hours on high and can handle at up to 8 (or maybe longer? I’ve never done more than 8!). Depending on my mood, I either eat this wrapped in tortillas with sour cream and red onions, or in a bowl like a stew. Either way, it’s one of those good any-season dishes, suggesting both summer, with its tex-mex flavors, and winter, with its cozy goodness. I just realized that this looks an awful lot like this dish I posted a while back; I guess I like this flavor profile! So now you have two options….quick and over the stove for those days you have some time, and slow and unattended for those days that you don’t.
Tomatillo Pork….in a crockpot!
Adapted from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday. Serves 6.
This time round, I subbed fresh red jalapeños for the pickled ones, just because that’s what I had. Either is awesome, though I’m posting the original recipe below. This recipe also works well with chicken. Did I mention this is good for you?
1.5 lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut in half
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3-4 canned, pickled jalapeños, stemmed and sliced (and seeded if you’re a wimp about heat, like me!!)
1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro
2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2, 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, drained
1 T sugar
lime juice, to taste
- Spread the tomatillos on the bottom of your crockpot
- Spread the garlic, jalapeños, half the cilantro, and 1/2 t salt on top of the tomatillos
- In a separate bowl, toss the pork with the worcestershire. lay the meat evenly over the vegetables in the slow cooker
- Cover and cook on high for at least 6 hours or until the pork is very tender
- Using tongs, remove the pork
- Add the remaining cilantro to the sauce in the crockpot and, using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth
- Add the beans to the sauce and replace the pork, heat until warmed through
- Taste. If it’s too tart, add sugar; if it’s too band, add salt; and if it needs acid, add lime juice
- Done and done