Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork makes a great filling for tacos and burritos. The slow cooker makes it a breeze to prepare. This recipe will yield a mildly spicy finished product. For a little extra kick, increase the amount of slice jalapeƱos and add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to braising liquid at the start.

Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Makes 10 – 12 Taco or Burrito Servings

8 lbs. pork shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp Ancho chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 large jalapeƱos, stemmed and seeded, sliced 1/8-inch thick crosswise
2 limes, juiced
1 large orange, juiced
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of beer, preferably Negro Modelo

Mix the seasoning in a large bowl. The night before putting the pork in the slow cooker toss the pork pieces with the seasoning rub in a large bowl until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Six hours before serving put the seasoned pork in the slow cooker vessel and add the lime juice, orange juice, bay leaves and beer. Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and just falling apart. Drain the pork, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the liquid. Put the pork back into the slow cooker and gently shred the meat. Pour the reserved cooking liquid back into the shredded pork. Keep on warm until serving.

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Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks takes a few hours to prepare but they are well worth the wait. The combination of long braising time and the acidity of the braising liquid break down the connective tissue in this otherwise tough cut of meat yielding a super tender finished product. The Gremolata lends an herby, citrusy finish when used as a serving garnish.

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Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves 4 to 6

8 lamb shanks 10-12 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 strips lemon zest, each about 4 inches long
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

For Gremolata
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Pat the lamb shanks dry. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge each in flour.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, brown the shanks on all sides. Transfer them to a plate and reserve.

In the same Dutch oven, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt to help draw out moisture. Saute until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Return the lamb shanks to the Dutch oven. Add enough chicken stock to cover the lamb shanks to about two-thirds. Add the herb sprigs, bay leaves, and lemon zest strips. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover tightly and move to oven. Braise for about 2 hours, turning the shanks every 30 minutes, until the meat is fork tender.

While the lamb shanks are braising, prepare the the gremolata by mixing the herbs, lemon zest and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.

When the lamb shanks are done, remove them from the braising liquid to a platter. Place a sieve over a large bowl. Carefully pour the braising liquid into the sieve, pressing on the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard the solid and return the sauce to the pan. Place the lamb shanks back into the sauce and bring to a simmer. Re-season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a lamb shank on each plate and spoon some sauce over each. Top with a spoonful of gremolata. Serve alongside risotto or on top of creamy polenta.

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Slow Cooker Asian Chicken

Slow Cooker Asian Chicken is a perfect way to make use of your slow cooker, known to many as a crock pot. The long low-temperature braising of meats or poultry can be done in the slow cooker and this particular recipe is the essence of that cooking method. The combination of fast, simple preparation and letting the slow cooker do the work makes this dish perfect for a lazy NFL Championship Sunday afternoon or a weeknight.

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Slow Cooker Asian Chicken
(Mark Kelly, 2015)

Serves 4

3 large bone-in, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup honey
3/8 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3/8 cup blackberry jam
3/8 cup hoisin
4 Tsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Sliced scallions, for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Arrange the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker.

In a medium bowl, mix the honey, soy sauce, jam, hoisin, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion and red pepper flakes. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and reserve the liquids. Shred the chicken into smaller pieces. Place the chicken in a bowl and set aside.

Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of cold water.

Put the braising liquids in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk in the slurry. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook it until it is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken, tossing to combine. Serve the chicken over brown rice topped with scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

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Coffee and Stout Braised Short Ribs with Polenta

Coffee and Stout Braised Short Ribs with Polenta is a dish that I developed with input from a number of different recipes and articles about braising short ribs and other cuts of beef. Short ribs, like oxtails, are a beef “scrap” meat that require and benefit greatly from the long braising process.

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Coffee and Stout Braised Short Ribs with Polenta
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Serves 4

6 – 8 (8-ounce) bone-in beef short ribs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 celery ribs, each quartered
3 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 (12-ounce) bottles Guinness Stout
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 cup water
1 cup coffee
Creamy Polenta (see recipe below)

Pat the short ribs dry and season them with salt and pepper.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers begin browning the ribs in batches taking care not to crowd them in the pot. Brown the ribs for about 2 minutes per side to achieve a good caramelization. Remove the ribs and set them aside.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Reduce heat to medium. Add celery, carrots, and onion to the pot with another tablespoon of oil. Soften the vegetables stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, beer, beef broth, a couple pinches of salt, and pepper to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to break browned bits free. Bring the mixture to a boil; then reduce to a simmer. Return the ribs to the pot; cover and transfer to middle rack of oven. Braise until meat is very tender, about 4 – 5 hours, add water about halfway through. When the ribs are done, remove them from the braising liquid, cover them and set them aside.

Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh colander into a large bowl, pressing solids to extract the liquid. Discard solids. Refrigerate the liquid for about 1 hour to allow the fat to rise to the top. Skim the fat from the liquid.

Transfer the braising liquid to back to the Dutch oven. Add coffee and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the liquid until it has a syrupy consistency, which could take as much as an hour. Add the ribs back to the pot and coat them with the reduced braising liquid.

Serve the ribs over Creamy Polenta with additional reduction.

Creamy Polenta

Makes 3 cup

3 cups milk, water or a combination
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Put the liquid and butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, add cornmeal, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Cook until creamy and thick. Season generously with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add Parmesan. Stir until completely melted. Serve warm.

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