I used to have one of the original style Crock Pots. A few months ago I finally bought myself a new slow cooker. I had done tons of research into the various types, sizes, and functionality. While I would have loved one of the super-duper ones, with just the two of us to cook for, it would have been overkill. So I wound up with a great Cuisinart programmable model just right for us. Its small size helps keep me from making enough food to feed an army!
Since then I’ve been going through a lot of my recipes, seeing which ones can be converted to the slow-cooking method. It’s been fun! I love adapting recipes because it gives me a chance to put my own spin on them. When you look at recipes, see if you can figure out other ways to use it. Would it work as part of a different recipe? Would it be a good side dish or could you alter it for a main course? I am always taking a little from one recipe and adding it to another to create a whole new dish.
When you’re looking for recipes that would covert easily to slow cooking, virtually anything requiring braising or stewing will work beautifully. Tougher cuts of meat become tender and luscious and poultry develops deep flavors when cooking a long time at a low temperature. As long as you don’t have to add ingredients along the way (once or twice is OK, but it is important to leave the lid on so you don’t lose the heat) it probably will be fine in a slow cooker.
When recipes call for hot chiles, most of the heat is in the seeds and ribs. Removing those prior to cooking will reduce the “heat” factor while maintaining the chile flavor. You can always add more heat later. And when slow cooking, the heat will intensify over time. What tastes great today may be too hot tomorrow. Take this into consideration when deciding how much to use. When working with hot chile peppers, wearing latex gloves is a good idea. If you don’t make sure you wash your hands well with soap and hot water. All it takes is you rubbing your nose or eyes once and you’ll never forget again. I can say from experience that it really hurts!
One of my favorite ways to plan for parties is to find foods that I can prepare a day or two ahead, reducing the amount of time I need to spend in the kitchen when I have guests. As with most stews, the flavor improves with time and is better the second day. And I can serve it in a variety of ways. I can make the tacos as directed, use this as a filling for enchiladas, tamales, or empanadas, or add some BBQ sauce and make a pulled pork sandwich. You can use the meat to enhance a soup, toss it with some pasta, or add it to a stir-fry. And don’t forget that you can change the protein if you like. What that means is that if you don’t eat pork, are looking for a chicken recipe, or have shrimp that needs to be used, you can take the flavor combinations from this recipe, reduce the quantities as appropriate, alter the cooking method (if need be), and create your own dish. The sky’s the limit!
Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos
Jane Evans Bonacci, adapted from a Real Simple recipe
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 chipotle chile en adobo, chopped or 1/2 to 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1/2 cup jam such as apricot, plum, or peach
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 to 2-1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder
1 med onion, chopped
1 yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
Flour or corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chipotle, jam, and wine. Stir until smooth. Rub over pork and place in slow cooker. Top with onions and bell peppers,. Cover and cook on high for four to six hours or until very tender.
Remove pork from liquids and shred or chop, discarding any excess fat. Place pork into a large bowl and add the cooking liquids. Serve with the tortillas, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos, and lime wedges.