When I got married a long time ago, I got three, yes count 'em three, crock pots. You would think I would have used them multiple times over the near two decades that I've had them, amassing a formidable repertoire of slow-cook recipes that warmed our bellies and filled our hearts with fond memories.
I can count on one hand the times I have used these crockpots -- mostly to keep something warm during parties.
Since I recently lent a crockpot to a friend to use for a chili cookoff, I had it on the counter after I cleaned it out. Hmm, I thought, should I actually cook something in it?
A query on Facebook revealed that many of my friends were crock pot fans and loved coming home to a cooked meal. Honestly, I didn't get the appeal, being a pressure cooker fan myself.
Would slow win out over fast?
I decided to give pork carnitas in the slow cooker a try. Braised in a diluted orange juice mixture, a fatty piece of pork such as pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt) or country-style ribs is cooked until tender and the sauce cooks down and becomes syrupy. You can then shred the pork or cut it into chunks and fry it up in the rendered oil and sauce, either in a pan or under the broiler. Put the crisped meat in a tortilla with some fixings and you've gone straight to heaven.
In this cooking foray, I learned one crock pot lesson: don't start the crock pot at 4:30 pm if you want to eat at a decent time. At 6 pm, the liquid hadn't even reached a simmer.
I did what any enterprising cook would do. I bailed. Into the pressure cooker went the pork where it finished cooking in 30 minutes.
Pork carnitas with all the fixings. Delicious!
Pork Carnitas al Enrique
3-4 lbs. Boston Butt or country-style pork ribs, cut in big chunks (around 2 inches); do not trim any of the fat
1 cup orange juice or 1 large orange, cut in 1/2 and juiced (keep orange)
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup Coke, Pepsi, Sprite or 7-Up
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, cut in 1/2 and cut in thin slices
4 cloves garlic, cut in thin slices
1 guajillo pepper or dried red chili pepper (optional)
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Pico de gallo
Put pork in a big bowl or baking sheet and sprinkle with soy sauce, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Mix together.
In a dutch oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker, add pork mixture, onions, garlic, bay leaves, dried guajillo chili pepper, orange juice (and orange if you used a real one), red wine vinegar, soda, and water to cover. In the dutch oven, cook at a low simmer until pork is tender -- about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. In the crock pot, set in the morning and cook on low all day until you get home. In the pressure cooker, cook for about 45 minutes.
When the pork is tender, remove it from the braising liquid, along with the onions, and set it on a platter. Reduce liquid in the pan about 75% or until it's a sauce. Remove bay leaves, and if you used a real orange and/or the dried guajillo pepper, remove that from the pot before reducing.
Turn on the broiler. Pour some of sauce onto the pork. If cooking under the broiler, put the pork in a cookie sheet and under the broiler, turning occasionally until the meat is browned and crispy on the edges. Or brown and crisp in a hot sauce pan.
Serve pork on flour or corn tortillas with fixings.