Monday, January 31, 2011

Tomatoey Slow Cooker Pork Roast

A few months ago Raley’s had whole bone-in pork shoulder roasts on sale for $0.97/lb. in the twin pack.  If you are familiar with this cut of meat, you know that two shoulder roasts is a lot of meat—about 14 pounds total.  But it was such a great deal that I just couldn’t pass it up.  I took my roasts home, stuck one in the freezer, and made carnitas with the other (recipe to be posted in the future).

A few days ago I retrieved the frozen roast from the bowels of my freezer and stuck it in the fridge to thaw.  Using some basic ideas I saw on America's Test Kitchen, I added my own cooking instinct and came up with this meal, intending it to be a stepping stone to the final recipe.  But after serving it to my family, the test recipe became the final recipe.  Keanna had at least three helpings and both Robbie and I loved it.

There are three keys to a successful pot roast.  First, sear the outside of the meat before putting it in the slow cooker, then deglaze the pan for maximum flavor.  Second, cook it low and slow.  Pork shoulder is a tough cut of meat.  It needs time to allow the connective tissue to break down.  Third, don’t add too much liquid.  This is a mistake that a lot of people make.  The roast itself will let out a lot of juice.

I have included quantities in the recipe, but use more or less carrots and potatoes depending on how much room you have in your slow cooker.  You could also add parsnips and/or onions.  I always end up with more meat than vegetables.  No problem—I just serve leftover roast with sautéed or roasted vegetables.

Tomatoey Pork Pot Roast
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 pork shoulder roast (5-7 lbs.), bone-in or boneless
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (30 oz.) diced tomatoes
½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
½ Tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
4 large carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
4 medium red potatoes, quartered (russet will work too)
2 Tbsp. flour

In large skillet, preferably iron, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, add roast, sear on all sides.  Move roast to crock of 5-6 quart slow cooker.  Add garlic to oil left in skillet and stir until fragrant.  This may take only a few seconds.  Add tomatoes and scrape bottom of skillet to deglaze.  Add Worcestershire sauce, bouillon, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Reduce sauce over medium-high to high heat until really thick.  You should be left with less than 2 cups.

Pour tomato reduction over roast and down sides.  Place potatoes and carrots around and on top of roast.  

Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.  

Notice how much liquid came out of the roast.

Remove carrots and potatoes to platter, keep warm.  Transfer roast to cutting board or platter, wrap with foil, and let rest.

Meanwhile, pour juices into bowl or measuring cup (should be about 1 quart).  When fat comes to top, skim off, reserving 2 Tbsp.

Place reserved fat in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 2 Tbsp. flour.  Stir until bubbly.

Add cooking juices; bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Slice roast across grain into thick slices.  Pour gravy over roast and vegetables.  Serve with crusty bread to sop up extra gravy.


Jen in SLO said...

Can you explain why you need to sear? I love my crockpot because it is easy, easy, easy -> dump meat in pot, dump something else on top of meat, turn on.

Searing and deglazing takes away some of that easy, and I've never not liked my meat. But then, no one has ever accused me of being a gourmet. What does searing do? :)

Sumiko said...

Hi, Jen!

Searing is definitely not absolutely necessary. When I am short on time, I skip this step. Searing the meat before cooking it develops fuller flavor. It also gives it a nice, dark appearance. The high temperature of the skillet catalyzes the caramelization reaction--the slow cooker does not get hot enough. Just think about the difference in flavor between sauteed chicken breasts and baked chicken breasts. Sometimes I sear the meat the night before while I'm doing dishes so I can just dump it in the slow cooker in the morning. This is one of the more time consuming slow cooker recipes because of the reduction, but we got three meals plus tons of leftovers out of it.

If you want to skip the searing, deglazing, and reducing, you could probably drain the tomatoes and add some tomato paste to replace some of the flavor lost in the juice. Let us know if you try it!

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