A few weeks ago, I posted the result of my first foray into the world of Crockpot cooking. It wasn't entirely successful in my opinion, but I thought that might be (partly) down to a lack of proper technique on my part. So I've been on the lookout for a really flavourful slow-cook stew that would fulfill all the promises I've heard about the wonders of a crockpot.
And you know, I found something pretty tasty. I'm not saying I'm going to turn into a Crockpot Convert. (Though I think that the first time I use it for mulled wine or butter rums, I may...) But I found a recipe that works extremely well in a crockpot and yields a really tasty dinner. When you walk in the door after a long day at work (or a short one in my lucky case) a delicious meaty scent greets you and you know that dinner is already made.
I adapted this recipe from Rick Bayless' Pork with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes and avocado in Authentic Mexican Cooking. I forgot the avocado, adapted the procedure and didn't have as much tomato sauce as his recipe required. But it went down extremely well nevertheless and everyone had seconds. What impressed me most was the fact that the meat didn't have that bland boiled-in-water flavour that dogged me on my last attempt and is the reason I hate pot au feu. I think this is partly because pork simply adapts better to the long stewing, partly because I did a better job browning the meat before I stewed it and partly because it was covered with a thick rich and spicy sauce.
As I say, everyone had seconds and it wasn't because they were being polite.
Slow Cooked Mexican Stew
450 grams/ about a pound of pork roast
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
6 medium potatoes, cut in thick slices
1 cup (about 100 ml) tomato sauce
a 10 cm stick of chorizo, cut in thick slices (a little thicker than a pound coin)
a little olive oil
1 onion, choppped
1 leek, cut in thick chunks (because I had one on hand - this was not in the original recipe)
3 cloves of garlic
3 canned chipotles in adobo and a bit of the adobo sauce
salt to taste
a glass of red wine
Special equipment: an Aga stove or a crockpot or similar slow-cooker.
In the morning, put a little olive oil in a frying pan, get it nice and hot and throw in the pork roast. It should sizzle. A lot. Brown it well on all sides - all the way around and on the ends. It will take a good 15-20 minutes but be patient. You can be a little late for work, for once - shave it off your lunch hour. When the meat is good and browned and (hopefully) there are nice browned bits sticking to the bottom of the frying pan, remove it to a plate. Add a little more oil (if necessary) and then the onion, leek and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft and a little browned. Add the red wine and deglaze by turning up the heat and scraping up all the nice tasty browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. When you are reasonably sure that you have got them all up and that washing that pan is going to be a breeze, turn off the heat.
Now it's time to assemble your stew. Place the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot. Cover them with the wine and onion and leek and garlic mixture. Sprinkle the spices and lay the bay leaves over the vegetables. Place the pork on top and pour a couple of glasses of water over the whole thing. You can use stock if you like, but I found it worked fine with just water.
Put the crockpot on "low" for the next ten hours or "high" if you need it in a mere six hours.
Go to work or otherwise have a productive day.
About an hour before you want to serve, remove the roast from the pot. It will most likely be falling apart tender. Carefully (it's hot!) remove any gristly bits or fat and break the meat into large-ish chunks. Stir the tomato sauce and the chipotles (chopped) and adobo sauce into the stew and add the meat. Put the chorizo in a pan (no oil, they have plenty already) and cook over a medium flame until they have given up most of their grease. Drain them and add them to the pot. Cover and continue heating until you are ready to eat.
Rick's recipe called for serving with avocado. Oops, I forgot to serve them. It was fine though - smoky and spicy and extremely rich. The meat really seeemed ready to melt off the fork and the potatoes did a great job of soaking up the gravy. All in all, a fantastic option if you have half an hour before work to devote to dinner preparation and the tools to cook all day long.
I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about the non-alcohol delivering capabilities of my crockpot!