I admit it, I've been a complete snob about the slow cooker. It doesn't fit in with my "romantic" notion of cooking, with the cast iron pot simmering on the stove for hours, my husband and I working in the kitchen together stirring up something good...However, our weeknights have been anything but romantic, so I've tabled those fantasy cooking scenarios for Sundays, when we're all a little more relaxed and actually all in the house at the same time, and I finally unpacked the slow cooker that stayed in its box for 6 months simply because I couldn't give in.
I purchased the cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution, mostly because I've been able to trust Cook's Illustrated in all things culinary and this cookbook is produced by the same team, America's Test Kitchen. I've only made two recipes from the book so far, but neither has disappointed, giving me new enthusiasm to continue my exploration. Even my husband, as reluctant as I, has proclaimed himself a convert.
With fall's arrival, Shredded Barbecued Beef (p. 143) and North Carolina Pulled Pork have been just right on my son's game nights. Quick and easy to prep, great flavor, and leftovers for the next day's lunch. What's not to love?
North Carolina Pulled Pork
Prep Time: 8 to 24 hours for rub
Cooking Time: 9-11 hours on Low or 5-7 hours on High
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
5-pound boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of fat and quartered
3 smoked ham hocks, rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in bowl. Using fork, prick pork all over and rub the sugar mixture over the pork. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
2. Place ham hocks in slow cooker. Unwrap pork and place on top of hocks. Pour broth over pork, cover, and cook until the pork is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
3. Transfer pork and hocks to large bowl. Let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces (don't shred meat too finely since it will break up more as the meat is combined with the sauce) discarding skin, bones, and excess fat; cover to keep warm. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon.
4. Strain liquid into medium saucepan and simmer until thickened and measures 1 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, ketchup, liquid smoke, and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Toss shredded pork with 1 1/2 cups sauce; add more sauce as needed to keep meat moist. Serve with remaining sauce.
P.S. Do you have any favorite slow cooker recipes you're willing to share?