Monday, April 12, 2010

Porky Pig

The house is ALIVE with the smell of dead pig meat. No, really. The aroma is heavenly, so that piggie is in a good place. I'm OK with that.
The story here is that I finally resorted to using my old Crock Pot, a genuine relic from the '70s in a shade of harvest gold. We only use it for beans around here, but Zoomie and Biggles had been having success slow-cooking wads of muscle. I had to try.
Still, I was dubious. That bone-in pork shoulder (or "butt") sat, vacuum sealed, in the freezer for months. I couldn't get my mojo working.
Until this damn winter of a spring drove me to craving soft, stringy meat, warm from its bath and fragrant with aromatics.
I cooked it on high for a few hours (I don't know how many, four or five), until it was fally-aparty. It takes a while. If you stick a fork in it and feel any resistance or tightness, it ain't done. The truth is, I don't think you can even overcook meat in a Crock Pot.
But we happened to stop it at the right instant. One little trimming of pork that had been cut off so the rest would fit was immediately dispatched to our mouths. I didn't feel guilty at all, even though I had grand plans for making arepas and coleslaw. Later on.
The meat rested in its hot liquid for a few more hours, still "cooking" but not overcooking, and soon we craved another bite. Arepas be damned. We wanted bites of this incredible pork as god intended, straight from the Crock Pot. Mmm. Little meltings of fat that almost tasted like butter. Tender shreds of meat, flavored with bay leaves, onions, garlic, orange rind, salt and pepper. Soft, juicy. What could be better?
Nothing! This is the best job I've ever done with a hunk of meat. Ever. Well, I've finally got the Christmas roast beef down to a science, but that's only once a year (and it's still subject to goof-ups). I cannot cook a chicken, this is known. Fish, bacon, steaks, fine. But it's the hunks that throw me.
Until now. I can't wait to do this again.


Greg said...

Soft,stringy meat..yeah! I keep buying Crockpots and my kids keep "borrowing" them.

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Stop having kids!

El said...

CC, you really surprise me. When I went back to meat-eating, one of the first things I tried was a braise of a pork shoulder on the stove/in the oven. Then I did the same thing in the crockpot (after my mother's suggestion, she of the avocado green one). When I made them, I thought of you, thinking, geez, she's old hat at this meat thing, CC and Cranky would not consider this terribly sexy food, at all! I should've invited you over!

cookiecrumb said...

El: Asssume nothing, that's my motto. (Among others.)
Really, I'm a bit of a meat-phobe. I don't have reliable practice cooking it. This was a miracle. (Did your mom give you the avocado green pot?)

Zoomie said...

I could teach you chicken roasting.

cookiecrumb said...

Zoomie: I kneel at your throne, oh great mistress. (But I'll skip the mint, m'kay?)

kudzu said...

The way you and Cranky pulled and stripped (wow, this is sounding racy) reminds me of my favorite way to eat ham that I have cooked on top of the stove, barely simmering, for as long as I can stand to wait for it: bits and pieces to stick into my mouth when they're still so hot I have to blow on them. Do the same with juicy roast chicken, too, considering the wings that I pull off and dispatch almost immediately the cook's reward. YUM.

dancingmorganmouse said...

Slow roasted anything is so fine and the bit of piggie looks delish.
1 whole lemon cut into 1/4s and up the chicken's bum (once dead mind), that's the secret!

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Wow, simmered ham. That's foreign to me. Sounds so seductive.
I gotta work on my chicken. I like chicken; I hate messing it up. We mostly buy ours already cooked from Rolli Roti.

Mouse: I know the lemon trick. I just don't seem to have the center-of-the-oven trick, the temperature trick, the butter-rub trick. I'm frightening.

Elizabeth said...

"The hills are alive/with the smell of pig meat/With chunks that have cooked/For a thousand years ...."

Or six hours or so. Here's my foolproof oven recipe, thanks to Pastaworks meat guy Dave:

1. Take your hunk o' meat. 3-5 lbs of pork shoulder/butt works for me.

2. Dry rub it with cumin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder whatever you like, overnight.

3. Put it in a dutch oven with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cover the pot with plastic wrap. Really. Then cover it with foil. Then put the lid on.

4. Then put it in the oven at 250 for six hours. Don't check it, don't break the seal.

5. Now take the pot out of the oven. Let the meat cool enough that you can shred it in another bowl. Put all the juices in a big glass measuring cup and let the fat rise to the top. Get rid of most of the inch or two of fat.

6. Put the rest of the lovely savory broth back in with the shredded meat.

7. Eat for a week.

Cali said...

I use the crock pot to cook pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches. I just season it slightly differently. When it starts falling apart I take it out, smash it to shreds with tongs and return it to the crock pot with a cup or so of my favorite barbecue sauce. That yummy, yummy pig juice and the barbecue sauce is an unbelievably good sauce. It makes a heavenly sandwich when paired with my yummy pineapple cole slaw, and a meal that will leave one in a food coma for the rest of the day with some crinkle cut fries dipped in barbecue sauce. Mmmmmm.

Moonbear said...

Okay, the crockpot's coming out of the closet. I'm convinced.

Kalyn said...

Sounds fabulous. The crockpot is not for everything, but I love to use it for soup, I think it would be wonderful for this.

Hungry Dog said...

I need a crock pot. And, I need some of this pork. Where do you live? Just kidding, sort of.

SallyBR said...

I just made a brisket in the crockpot, sweet-sour kind, with orange juice and peel, vinegar, some other usual and unusual suspects.

amazing how good it turned out, and I did not even browned the meat before hand.

In fact, leftovers will be our dinner tonight! :-)

Rev. Biggles said...

YEAH !!! Love it. Done right, the little rig can really make a large hunk of meat so easy to do. Yay!

xo, Biggles

cookiecrumb said...

Elizabeth: First, Ha ha! Second, OMG. That recipe is so counterintuitive. You don't even add any liquid! As excited as I am about the Crock Pot version, I must try yours. Thanks.

Cali: You're pretty darn near describing the meal I was shooting for. I just don't spice the pork that much; the natural meat tastes pretty good (this is humanely raised pork). But I'm ready to go all fancy on ya. Thanks.

Moonbear: If you need more convincing, DO IT. See?

Kalyn: I'd say it's SB-friendly. Just skim off the fat. It's so easy and good!

Dog: Target for slow cookers. Or check Salvation Army. Do it! (You know where I live, don't you?)

Sally: AH! I forgot to mention, I didn't brown the meat either. And yet it came out brown (I turned it over once in the pot). Your brisket is a dream.

Biggles: It was because you were so excited with your success that I decided to try. And now I'm excited. Really excited, and that hasn't happened in a long time. (We've got four sizes of slow cookers.)

Rev. Biggles said...

Wooot! I knew it wouldn't disappoint. Now you need to do something with some root vegetables of some such. Crockpots and vegetables love each other. It's awesome, especially when cooked with meat.

xo, Biggles

cookiecrumb said...

Biggles: You ever cook in a Romertopf? We used to do a whole chicken, with wine, herbs and vegetables. Rather crockpotty, as I recall. I'm going to go find your chicken in the pot.

namastenancy said...

This sounds utterly divine. I love pork and the way you cooked it - well, I almost went out and bought a crockpot but reality kicked in. I am afraid to trust my 1907 electrical writing to anything like this. Maybe I can recreate your results with a slow cooked pot in the oven.
Otherwise, I'm moving to Marin and camping out in your yard. I'll walk the dog in exchange for pork tacos.

Rev. Biggles said...

Sigh. You could have said clay cooker thingy, I had to google that.

Hooboy, anything you put in a clay cooker comes out perfect every time. But the timing is a little bit more precise when compared to the crock pot.

Root veggies, whole chicken trussed and rubbed with kosher salt, cuppa red wine cuppa chicken broth, 2 pats of butter on top with rosemary/thyme. 400 degrees until more than done.

Face plant.

xo, Biggles

cookiecrumb said...

Nancy: I think the Crock Pot is not a big strain on the wires. But you should try the oven version (and why is your oven safe?). Look at Elizabeth's outrageous recipe. Mmm.

Biggles: Ah, thanks for doing my homework, dad.
Clay thingies -- I wouldn't use curry in one, because it's unglazed and porous, and might retain odors.
And those dishes you like? That's eight dishes, $7.50 each. You can do it. Purty.

Rev. Biggles said...

Yeah, I dunno. I figure people been cooking stinky things in clay for a long time. After the first few runs should be just fine. The one I have is actually glazed on the inside, pretty nifty.

cookiecrumb said...

Glazed inside, problem solved. ;-)