Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork plus Pickled Veggie Slaw

Lettuce wraps with pulled pork bulgogi and pickled veggie slaw

I am a huge fan of pork, especially in Asian dishes. I have some pretty solid recipes for pork bulgogi (Korean barbecue pork) and pork bahn mi (French-influenced Vietnamese sandwiches), which I will probably share on this blog one day. But sometimes I don't feel like butchering and slicing a pork roast razor-thin in order to make those recipes. That's when this slow cooker pulled pork recipe comes in handy. Just plop a big pork roast into the slow cooker with some soy sauce and aromatics, and a few hours later, you have pork that is delicious on its own or ready for any sauce or application that you throw at it.

I have a very specific philosophy about my Crockpot: there are only a few dishes that are actually better in a Crockpot, and the only time I will bust it out is to make those dishes, like for this one, my chipotle pulled pork, simple slow cooker chicken soup, and chili verde. These recipes tend to involve meats that need a long braise, such as a pork roast or pot roast, because, unlike simmering, slow cooking activates enzymes that tenderize large cuts of meat. It's also ideal for making stock because the low, slow heat breaks down gelatin in bones much better than a fast simmer. There are tons of "Crockpot compromise" recipes out there, like for boneless skinless chicken breasts or pasta, that have no business being made in a Crockpot. Both of these things will cook on the stovetop or oven in less than 15 minutes, and taste much better that way. Those recipes are for people think stovetop/oven cooking is scary, or for people who do it because they want a hot meal immediately after coming home from work. You won't see me posting any of those on my blog.

The goods:
The beauty of this recipe is in its versatility. You can serve the pork with rice or noodles, use it as the filling for a bahn mi, mix it with Korean chili paste and serve it with rice and pickled veggies (lettuce wraps optional) like pork bulgogi. My recipe for pickled veggie slaw is equally versatile, and it can accompany the pork in many dishes. This makes a lot of pork, so you can make several different meals from the leftovers, or freeze them for later. The fresh veggies and lean pork make a healthy and complete meal.

The tweaks:
This recipe calls for pineapple juice concentrate as an optional ingredient. This is one of my staple ingredients for Asian-inspired dishes--I use it instead of sugar and vinegar to add natural acidity and sweetness, and hey, it must add some vitamins too, right? I buy the frozen juice and always keep it on hand in my freezer. If you don't buy in on this trick, you can just substitute a sweet rice wine vinegar.

Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork 
1 large onion, roughly sliced
4-5 lbs pork loin or sirloin roast, with or without bone (these cuts are quite lean)

2 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
1/4-1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup pineapple juice concentrate (or if doing low carb, 1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar plus 3 packets of Splenda)
red pepper flakes to taste

Put the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the roast on top. Pour the rest of the ingredients on top. Cover and cook 7-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. The pork will be fall-apart tender. Pull pork into bite-sized pieces with two forks. The pork will make a couple of cups of delicious sauce. You can choose to reduce it in a saucepan and mix it in with the pork, or use it as a sauce for rice or noodles.

Pickled Veggie Slaw
1 large cucumber, julienned
1 lb carrots, shredded (you can use a food processor or buy them pre-shredded)
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 t sesame oil (optional)
1 t sriracha (optional)

Mix together at least one hour prior to serving. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Serving Suggestions:
Bahn Mi: spread mayo and sriracha on a crusty roll. Mix some hoisin sauce with some pulled pork and fill roll with the pork mixture, pickled veggie slaw, cilantro, and a squirt of lime.

Pulled Pork Bulgogi: mix some pulled pork with Korean chili paste and a few drops of sesame oil. Serve with rice, pickled veggie slaw, and kimchi (optional) on lettuce wraps.

Pork Fried Rice or Stir Fry Noodles: stir fry cooked rice or noodles (e.g. lo mein noodles or linguine pasta) with pulled pork, veggies, and some of the leftover sauce from the pork.

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