Summer 2014…that went by fast. Somehow, it’s September already, school’s back in session, and so are many of the sports, clubs, and activities that come with the new school year. As a teacher, the beginning of the school year is always a crazy time for me. This year, I’m also a student, so it’s hectic times ten. Kudos to all the parents out there. Seriously, how do you do it all?
For me, I know I can always turn to my good friend the slow cooker when I’ve got crazy days on the horizon. They sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m a huge fan of my slow cooker. For some people, I think the hard feelings come from memories of bland, mushy, “use 48552375 kinds of canned cream of whatever soup” recipes out there. Maybe it’s the mountains of Pinstrosities out there. (Don’t even get me started.) I think others may feel like using a slow cooker is a bit of a cop out on preparing a homemade dinner. It’s not. Not even close.
This recipe is super simple, bursting with flavor, and uber versatile. Much of the prep work can be done the night before, leaving you to do little else but sear the roast, dump the ingredients in your slow cooker, and make up a quick (quicker if you cut up the pineapple in advance) pineapple salsa just before serving. The recipe calls for a 4-5 pound roast. You may be thinking that’s an awful lot of pork. It is. But this tender pork freezes perfectly, so do yourself a solid, make that five pounder, and freeze some leftovers for all those hectic days that are sure to come.
Slow Cooker Tacos al Pastor
adapted from Southern Living, December 2013
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 (4-5 lb.) pork shoulder
1 (14.5-oz.) can pineapple tidbits in juice
1 (7-oz.) can chipotle peppers in adobo
2 TBSP olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (12-oz.) bottle white ale
1 1/2 c. chopped fresh pineapple
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 c. minced red onion
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
24 corn tortillas, warmed (if you intend to eat the entire recipe)
cilantro, crumbled cotija or goat cheese, chopped avocado, sliced radishes, and/or lime wedges, for serving
1. The night before: In a small bowl, mix together 2 tsp. salt, and all the pepper, cumin, and oregano. Rub mixture onto the outside of the pork shoulder, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in a baking dish to catch any leaks. Keep in the refrigerator overnight.
2. In a blender, purée half the can of pineapple tidbits and all of the juice with the entire jar of chipotle peppers. Mix in the remaining pineapple tidbits. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator overnight.
3. In a large pan (or in your slow cooker, if it has the capability), heat the oil and sear all sides of the pork shoulder until brown, about five minutes per side. Place pork in the slow cooker, pour pineapple mixture, beer, and onion slices on top. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or until bone slides out without resistance and meat shreds easily.
4. Meanwhile, make pineapple salsa by combining fresh pineapple, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Set aside until ready to eat.
5. Transfer pork to a cutting board and shred with two forks, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim fat from the sauce, return pork to the slow cooker, and stir to combine meat and sauce.
6. Serve with warm corn tortillas, crumbled cotija or goat cheese, chopped avocado, sliced radishes, lime wedges, and/or additional cilantro.
Yield: 10-12 servings (2 tacos each)