Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crock Pot No Crock

My wife and daughter gave me a $15 Rival crock pot for Christmas. Frighteningly, unnervingly cheap. Would it work? We hoped so. Given our busy schedules (I usually get home around 6:45 or 7 p.m.), it would be a Godsend if it did.

For our maiden meal, we flipped through the booklet that came with the crock pot and settled on a pot roasted pork. Normally, we don't do a lot of pork. Too many times, I've set out to cook a pork chop, even a good one from the butcher, only to have it turn into a dry, stringy, gray hunk. Tear it apart and you could use the remains to restring tennis rackets. A far cry from the pork that my mother raves about from her Depression childhood. But that's a story for another post.

In spite of our past bad experiences with swine, there was something deeply appealing about the recipe. A pork roast falling off the bone with caramelized onions sounded like heaven on a cold winter's eve. So we decided to give it a try.

At about 6:45 a.m. after packing my daughter's lunch, I got started. The recipe called for a 4 to 5 pound boneless pork loin roast. I realized that the roast I had bought had some bones. No worries. I trimmed away the large one at the base. Probing with my fingers, I ascertained that only relatively thin rib bones remained inside. The solution: Cook it the maximum time suggested by the recipe, 12 hours. I followed the recipe ( see below) and set the pot to low.

Would the criminally cheap crock pot actually work? My wife and I apprehensively waited and watched. Within half an hour, the pot's sides were toasty warm. So far so good. Now let's hope it doesn't short out and burn down the house while we're at work.

My wife returned in early afternoon to a house filled with heavenly aroma, the pot's contents happily simmering away. It smelled so good that my daughter, a carnivore of the first order, wanted to eat some as soon as she got home.

I arrived home around 7 p.m., set the pot to warm and threw on mashed potatoes and carrots. I do most of the cooking, but there are certain things my wife does. One is gravy. Looking in the pot, she decided to give it a go. She proceeded to use the droppings to make a nutty brown, deeply flavorful gravy.

The moment of truth: I brought the roast out of the pot and put it on a cutting board. It smelled fantastic. The onions were soft and saturated with goodness. As I put the carving knife to the roast, the meat fell away. The result: a fantastic meal with relatively little fuss and effort. My only criticism: It was perhaps a tad overdone. Next time, I'll try 10 instead of 12 hours.

We had plenty of leftovers, which we had last night. The pork had lost of none of its flavor and it stood up well to a light microwave. There's still some left for sandwiches. A huge success.

Here's the recipe:

1 4-to-5-lb boneless pork loin roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, slivered
2 medium onions sliced thin
2 bay leaves
1 whole clove
1/2 a cup of water (If meat is especially fatty, use a little less)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Rub pork with salt and pepper. Make slits in meat and insert garlic. Put one onion at the bottom of the crock pot. Add pork and top with second onion and other ingredients. Cover and cook on low 10 to 12 hours or high for 5 to 6 hours.

1 comment:

  1. This is your first experience with the beloved crock-pot, the staff of life? Such a boon to working families. You should get a cookbook or two (search in Amazon for "slow cooker cookbook"). I can personally recommend the one by Lynn Alley, and actually"Slow Cookers for Dummies" has some good recipes. Do not, however, get one of the "Fix It and Forget It" books. They all involve Lipton onion soup mix and other white-trash ingredients. :-)The reason they're so cheap is that it's just a hunk of metal, a plug and a basic timer. Though I have one that gives you choices of times for high and low heat.