Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hello, Crockpot! (aka Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder)

I can hardly believe I made it this far in life without my very own slow cooker.  I have nearly every kitchen appliance known to man - some requiring electricity, some simply requiring muscle. From the immersion blender to the ancient salad spinner that I've had since 1990, to my super duper trusty Vitamix blender that blends so utterly mightily.  I've got a rice cooker, a ricer, a pressure cooker, a clay tagine, a food processor, a mini chopper, a mortar & pestle, an electric mixer, an ice cream maker.

But somehow, I never had a slow cooker, until now, that is. And while I wait, and wait, and wait, and wait a little bit more for potential employers to decide they might actually want to hire me, I cook, and bake, and stew, and chop, and slice, and dice.  And slow cook.  In preparation for that job that I'll have any day now, that will take away all this time I have to cook.

So naturally, until the little mister decides to learn how to expand his culinary repertoire, I'm thinking I should make friends with the slow cooker.  Especially now that the cooler weather is coming.  I like the idea of long, slow braises and stews.

The maiden slow cooker voyage: pork shoulder.  Marinated overnight in a nice, herby rub featuring toasted fennel seeds, garlic and rosemary.  Cooked for a good 8 hours on low with apples & onions that later became gravy.  Oh yeah.  Piled over a mound of smashed potatoes, parsnips, leeks and roasted garlic.  Who wouldn't want to come home to this after a long day of working and commuting?  Well, possibly a vegetarian, but I think we are going to have fun coming up with good ideas for them, too.  But in the meantime, should you feel a need for slow cooked pork coming on, I've got just the thing for you.

I based my recipe on this one from the excellent blog Simply Recipes,  but made a few key changes, adding fresh thyme, and herbs de provence, plus a bit of worcestershire sauce and a sprinkling of brown sugar.  And cooking it in the crockpot instead of the oven.  The final product was every bit as divine as they said it would be, holy cow.  Or pig, as it were.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy
(Adapted slightly from Simply Recipes)


3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
1 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de provence
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Olive oil
2 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold (I used granny smith)
1 medium yellow onion
Few sprigs thyme
1/2 cup red wine (can sub water)
Few splashes worcestershire sauce
About 1-2 T. brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

1 Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, herbs de provence and rosemary leaves, garlic and salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 1 T. olive oil.

2 Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).

3 Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut the onion into thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.

4 Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of the crock pot.  Scatter the thyme sprigs on top.

5 Brown the pork in a dutch oven over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes on each side.  If you want, you can deglaze the pot with a few splashes of wine.

6 Place the browned pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions in the slow cooker, add the wine and the deglazed bits from the pan, plus a few splashes of worcestershire sauce and a light sprinkling of brown sugar.  Cook on low for roughly 8 hours, until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.  Then switch the setting to warm and let it sit for another couple of hours.  You won't believe how amazing your house smells.

7 Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/4 cup water and the mustard and purée. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.  Serve over a mound of mashed potatoes & parsnips.

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