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 jalapeños 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 jalapeños, 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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Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts

Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts is a simple way to achieve perfectly cooked, tender chicken breasts. Preparation time takes 15-20 minutes and then the slow cooker does the rest. To insure the chicken cooking within 45 minutes make sure: that you have halved the breasts, that you have allowed them to come up to room temperature, and that the poaching oil is at 200F when the chicken is placed in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Oil-Poached Chicken Breasts
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food and Wine, January 2017)

Serves 4

1/4 cup fine salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon quartered
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 Fresh bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Kosher salt

In a large bowl, whisk 5 cups cold water with the fine salt and sugar until dissolved. Squeeze and add 2 lemon quarters into the bowl. Add the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a slow cooker along with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns a couple of pinches of salt, and the remaining 2 lemon quarters. Cook, covered, on low until the oil registers 200F, about 1 hour. The oil can be kept on low for up to 6 hours.

At least an hour before cooking remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry; transfer to a plate and discard the brine. About 45 minutes before serving, using tongs, carefully lower the chicken into the warm oil and cook on low until the internal temperature registers 155F, about 40 – 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a platter. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a fresh vegetable and crusty warm bread.

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Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta

Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta is a variation on the Southern classic Shrimp and Grits. The east coast Old Bay seasoning replaces the Cajun spices. I found using the air fryer to cook the shrimp was very successful. It seemed to intensify the flavors in the seasoning that sometimes get diluted when sautéing or baking the shrimp.

Old Bay Shrimp with Creamy Polenta
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 2

For the Shrimp
1 lb. 20-30 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
Kosher salt

For the Polenta
3 cups 2% milk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat air fryer to 390F.

To prepare the shrimp: Mix the seasoning, including a pinch of salt, in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp in the oil to coat. Sprinkle in the seasoning while continuing to toss. In two batches, cook the shrimp for 5 minutes, shaking them halfway through.

While the shrimp are cooking, bring the milk and butter to a gentle boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the corn meal a little at a time while constantly whisking. Cook until creamy and thick, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until it is melted.

To serve: Divide the shrimp and serve them over the creamy, warm polenta. Garnish with your favorite hot sauce.

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Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings are a slightly healthier version of the traditional game day food since the wings are fried without oil. The air-fryer makes the skin super-crispy. This recipe is for the well-known Buffalo sauce version of wings. After air-frying, any sauce can be used. My air-fryer is a NuWave Brio. I will tell you more about this handy kitchen device in a future post.

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 2

2 lbs. chicken wings, drums and flats separated, tips discarded
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
Blue Cheese Dressing to serve

Preheat air-fryer to 360F.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix well. Toss the chicken wings in the seasoning. In two batches, air-fry the wings for 25 minutes, shaking them about halfway through.

While the wings are cooking. Heat the wing sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter pieces. When the butter is melted bring the sauce up to a low boil and then set aside.

When all of the wings are cooked. Toss them in a large bowl with the warm wing sauce. Serve immediately with a generous portion of the Blue Cheese Dressing.

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Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant can be made with pork or turkey Italian Sausage. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

Italian Sausage-Stuffed Eggplant
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 6

3 large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 medium zucchini, peeled, 1/4-inch dice
3 large shallots, peeled, sliced into slivers
5 large garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
6 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herbs
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
2/3 cup coarsely chopped Romano cheese
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into 3/4-inch pieces
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the eggplant halves on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Score the cut side off each eggplant 1/2-inch apart lengthwise and crosswise taking care not to cut through the skin. Season generously with salt and spray the cut side with cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cover loosely with foil. Allow to cool before handling.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and season with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir into zucchini mix. Add diced tomatoes with their juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated about 8 minutes. Add the crumbled Italian sausage, chopped Romano, and parsley and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Lower oven heat to 350F.

Using a spoon scoop out most of the flesh from each eggplant, leaving about 1/2-inch of skin and flesh. Fill each hollowed out eggplant with one-sixth of the Italian sausage mixture. Return to the prepared baking sheet without the wire rack. Bake for 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, dot each eggplant with the fresh mozzarella pieces.

Serve warm with Parmesan and parsley garnish.

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