Pulled Pork Tacos – Saved by the Slow Cooker
I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m not a huge fan of the slow cooker. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolute Godsend for those on a time crunch. In the first few months after Aidan was born, it was my go-to kitchen appliance. I used it for soups, for scalloped potatoes, for stews, you name it. Chuck whatever you can find in the fridge, set it for 5-6 hours, and be on your way. One-stop pot, one-stop cleanup. Worked for me.
As time passed, however, I grew weary of it. Mostly because I was finding that recipes you would normally make over the stove top or oven lost a bit of their flavor when substituted with the slow cooker.
But I also grew weary of it because I simply love being in the kitchen. It’s my place. This is where you can find me when I’m in deep thought about something, when I’m in a bad, or good mood, or even when I’m bored.
It’s simply my place. My time. My space. Or as my two-year old likes to point out every, single day, at every, single moment, “That’s MINE!”
Suffice it to say that these days I only use the slow cooker when I’m seriously in a crunch for time, or when I have a craving for something that deserves slow-cooking TLC.
Today qualified for both.
We woke up to rain. A lot of it. Anyone with a child can sympathize with what typically happens on these days. A bored child becomes a curious child, and if you aren’t watching them with a hawk’s eye you are bound to hear something valuable break.
Aidan needs a lot of attention on these days. It is hard work keeping him entertained AND housebound. Bubble wrap and duct tape only go so far, right? For the record, I’m referring to wrapping my valuables, not my son. Just to be clear…
On these days I usually have one shot to get a good meal sorted – nap time. We spent the morning coloring, drawing, playing hide-and-seek, playing chase, you name it. I wore him out. The second his head hit the pillow, I made my way to the kitchen. Out came the slow cooker, cutting board, and mortar and pestle.
“Why hello kitchen, I’ve missed you too…”
Pulled pork fajitas are a favorite in this house. We love anything with a bit of kick, and when served with roasted onions and peppers caramelized in their own natural sugars, a splash of lime and hot tortillas, this meal leaves little space for dinnertime chitchat. Anyone who knows me can understand why my husband Stephen is always asking me to make it. I was a radio journalist for nearly a decade, is it really that surprising that I like to talk?
This recipes sounds complicated. But it’s not.
It starts with some simple spices; cumin, cayenne and coriander. Smash everything up in the mortar, add some brown sugar, and set aside. This is usually my favorite part of prep work. Nothing lets out some decent frustration over mourning the loss of broken heirlooms and fresh sheets stained with permanent markers than pounding out a few-hard-to-break seeds.
Once you’ve gotten that out of your system, slice the onions, mince the garlic, and toss it into the slow cooker, together with tomato sauce, the bowl of spices, one dried adobe pepper (or two if you are up for the scoville challenge!) and a large spoonful of Worcestershire sauce.
Nearly done. Generously rub salt and pepper on your pork loin. Sear it quickly, just enough to brown the sides, and then toss that into the slow cooker. Give it all a big stir, turn the cooker on, and chill out for the next several hours.
Almost there. I usually use two smaller pork loins (about half a kilo each). It’s much easier to find these at my local store than the larger roasts. But it does mean they cook faster than the full loin roast. I checked back after about 4 hours on the high setting, and sure enough, they were done. This was also about the time my husband came home from work, scooped up Aidan, and took over the child-rearing duties for the evening.
Shred the pork to your liking. And try not to eat too much of it along the way…
Before you toss it back into the cooker, remove about half of the sauce. This makes it easier to balance the pork/juice ratio. Plus, I love using the extra sauce with the meal, or even as a base for salsa if you are having a dinner party and need an appetizer.
Once you put the pork back in, stir in the juice of about one lime, season with salt and pepper, turn the cooker on keep warm, and eat when ready. Don’t forget to garnish with coriander and a few extra wedges of lime.
Saved by the slow cooker, once again. Till next time, here’s to happy thymes.
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper for medium kick, 2 tsp for a big kick
- 2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 dried abode pepper
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 kg pork loin roast, fat trimmed
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 425 grams (15 ounces) tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 1 lime, plus extra for garnish
- chopped cilantro
- warm tortillas
- Add cumin, cayenne, coriander and brown sugar to a mortar and using pestle, grind until smooth.
- Add ground spices, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, and Worcestershire to slow cooker. Stir to combine spices well.
- Head a small amount of oil on a frying pan, just enough to cover the pan. Season pork generously with salt and pepper and sear on medium-heat until browned on all sides. Add pork to slow cooker. Mix well.
- Place lid on the slow cooker and cook until pork is tender and falls apart easily, on low 8 to 10 hours or on high 4 to 6 hours. Cooking time largely depends on size of pork – for smaller pork loins expect a faster cooking time – if using one large pork loin roast expect a longer one.
- Remove pork, shred with a fork, set aside.
- Remove half of the sauce, set aside.
- Add pork back to slow cooker, season with juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper. Reintroduce sauce at this time until balanced to your liking. Keep the rest for extra salsa if desired.
- Serve with hot tortillas, grilled onions and peppers, cilantro, and lime wedges.