Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Red Cabbage Slaw with Cumin-Herb Vinaigrette and Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

This is officially the summer of crafted from scratch oven-less meals. The best yet was shared last weekend after a day of lazily browsing the SoWa open market in Boston. Pastries were eaten. Deals on fresh fruit were had. When we returned the slow cooker gave us tender and juicy pulled pork, ready to be topped with a do it yourself chipotle barbecue sauce and a spicy slaw. We sandwiched it all (producing not many beautiful pictures, sadly) inside warm toasted buns.

Slow cooker pulled pork is a no-brainer. It may not be the kind of shredded pork you get at a real barbecue place with a smoke pitt, but I’m willing to compromise in life.  Since the slow cooker is perfect for tender and juicy meats, I essentially (with the input of others) crafted the recipe on a whim.  Luckily, it worked out deliciously. The shredded pork disappeared once it hit the table.

The steps are super easy: First, buy a cut of boneless pork shoulder and place in a slow cooker.  Then, add the desired mix of seasonings and top with about a cup or two of liquid to keep it moist. Beer would work really well here, but I just didn’t think of that then. Darn. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. After we drained and shredded the pork, I thickened up some of the leftover liquid with butter (mmm) and flour, making a delicious gravy of sorts. The pork was then doused  in this sauce and served. Viola!

This time around for seasoning we decided on a chopped onion, adobo spice and a few tablespoons of my homemade barbecue sauce.We kept the heat minimal because Brian isn’t up to spice the way I am. But I can imagine many possibilities for spicing this in the future. I bet this recipe would also work for a variation of carnitas if the pork were fried or broiled right at the end.

The spicy slaw and barbecue sauce were great layered on top. I’m addicted to chipotle flavor. The sauce also packed real heat, the kind I strangely crave in the humid summer. I’m also a big fan of no-mayo salads and slaws, so red cabbage with a spicy vinaigrette was right up my alley. I adapted the slaw recipe from Julie Shani. It ended up being a pretty versatile salad. I’d even top tacos with this slaw. In fact, the leftovers in the fridge might just be used for that tomorrow night.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
A Made by Frances Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 lbs of boneless pork shoulder
seasonings of choice like onion, garlic, etc.
barbecue sauce, to taste
cooking liquid (stock, beer, water, etc)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Place the pork, seasonings and barbeque sauce in a slow cooker.

2. Cover with enough liquid to give about an inch of cover.

3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.

4. Drain the pork while reserving the cooking liquid. Shred the pork with two forks.

5. Thicken some of the reserved cooking stock into a sauce. Toss the shredded pork in this sauce before serving

Red Cabbage Slaw with Cumin-Herb Vinaigrette 
Adapted loosely from Julie Sahni’s Savoring Spices and Herbs

Servings vary

Ingredients:
1 head of red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
1 chili, seeded
1/4 cup water, stock or white wine
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Combine the cilatnro, parsley, and seeded chili in a food processor. Add the water, stock or wine. Process until the leaves are roughly minced.

2. Add in the vinegar, oil and spices. Process just until mixed. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

2. Toss the shredded red cabbage with the vinaigrette.

Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Makes about 2 Cups

Ingredients:
2 cups ketchup (homemade is preferable, but I didn’t have the time to do that)
1/2 cup dark beer
1/4 cup wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder (or more!)
a dash of cayenne
2 minced chipotles in adobo, plus some of the adobo sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt and pepper. Let this cook for 10 minutes so that the flavors mix.

2. Salt and pepper to taste once it is ready. Chill the sauce before serving.

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

 

Whoa. I am in love with my crock pot, slow cooker, or whatever you want to call it. These juicy, tender and spicy tacos sealed the deal. I’m converting to an all-slow-cooker-all-the-time kind of girl.

I took my current crock pot from my dad last fall. When I asked him if I could have it, he wasn’t even sure what it was used for. I took that as a definite yes. Since then I’ve only used it a few times. I made some chicken stock and soup. I cooked some beans and made a simple but good black bean soup. The crock pot was just another item in our kitchen.

The simple idea to start using the crock pot more often and more creatively came to me while sitting at my cubicle a few weeks ago. See, I spend a lot of time at work browsing for recipes ( I mean..I don’t do that…). I even categorize them in fun ways while at work! In gmail, I have a tag just for recipe emails that I send myself and format in a convenient way. In google reader, I use tags to flag recipes I want to make from my assorted food blog folders. Oh the joys of making the internet into one big cookbook!

These recipe searching missions got me thinking about the crock pot, especially about how it could do the work without me and then the oven wouldn’t make our apartment hot during the increasingly warmer days we have been graciously enjoying.

These chicken chili tacos, from the queen herself Martha Stewart, are proof that you should stop cooking altogether and put everything into the crock pot this summer. I swear. Brian assembled the ingredients this morning while I was at work since he has a later schedule than me. The chicken needs no browning. Everything just goes right in and cooks at low for 6-8 hours.

We both came home to falling-of-the-bone chicken that was drenched in fragrant adobo sauce, garlic, and salsa. It was all ready, just like that, waiting to be stuffed into warm tortillas and eaten in a fit of end of the day hunger and delight. A little queso blanco, jalapeno peppers and mango hot sauce made my two tacos perfect. Spice is the key to a satisfying meal.

Can all of life be this easy?

I’ve heard you can make a cheesecake in a slow cooker. So maybe life is easy after all.

Crock Pot Chili Chicken Tacos
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2-2.5 pounds skinless chicken thighs
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup salsa
1 (or more) tablespoons chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. I always go for more.
1 tablespoon chili powder
Salt and ground pepper

Directions:

1. Place the chicken, garlic, salsa, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, and chili powder into the crock pot.

2. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

3. Shred the chicken in the crock pot (or move all of it to another serving bowl, juices included) with two forks. It will literally drop off the bone. Discard the bones. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Crock Pot Black Bean Soup

 

I need to live and die by a budget these days. I am thankful to have a fulltime job with all the fixings, but it also means that it is time to pay off that credit card and not waste my money on whole foods buffet. How did I become my father, an eternal penny pincher? It must be some slow release gene ticking away in me.

Beans are my answer to adulthood and fiscal responsibility. They are cheap, protein packed, and available everywhere. My local convenient store even sells them. I didn’t have to trek far in the slush to find some yesterday. I should write congress with my plan to reduce the deficit: good old fashioned beans. Black beans in particular blend well with some of my favorite flavors, making them an instant favorite of mine. Avocado, cilantro, lime, sharp cheddar cheese, and chipotle are not shy of the glorious black bean. That is why I just can’t stay away from black bean soup.

This black bean soup inspired by Smitten Kitchen was almost a stunning success. The only problem was that I undercooked the beans. I was just too hungry on my snow day to wait any longer. There are so many rules floating out there in the internet food world about how and how not to cook beans from scratch. I decided to just plop them into the slow cooker and hope for the best, but ended up eating them way too early. But I’ve read that boiling the beans for 10-15 minutes and then putting them the crock pot is a good idea to ensure tenderness. So if you are nervous about beans that are not up to par I recommend boiling. Either way, just eat your beans when you taste fit. A bit longer in the crock pot won’t hurt anyone. Tender is good but a small crisp won’t kill anyone either.

Tender beans aside, I loved the ease of this recipe. I especially found the smokiness of the chipotle chili a welcoming touch. I do love those chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. This also made tons of leftovers, an added benefit  I freeze portions of meals now. I am that girl. Next I will be clipping coupons.

Crock Pot Black Bean Soup

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons neutral oil
2 onions, diced
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 chili in adobo sauce, with a teaspoon of adobo sauce
1 bag of dried black beans (16 ounces )
4 cups of stock (chicken, vegetable, or beef)
2 cups of water
fixings: lime wedges, avocado, grated cheese, and cilantro (to name a few)

Directions:

1. In a skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in the neutral oil. Add the cumin and chili powder. Mix around a bit. Add to the crock pot.

2. Add the beans, chili, and a teaspoon of adobo sauce.

3. Add the chicken stock and water. Turn the crock pot to high.

4. Cook for 4-6 hours, until the beans are tender. Once done season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

5. Optional: puree two cups of beans and add it to the soup. Or mash with a fork some of the beans. I found the thickness without these options perfectly fine, but you it may be different for you.

6. I highly recommend adding lime wedges to each bowl. It really makes the flavors pop.