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Culinary Spotlight: Forget About The Crock Pot

Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt

Everyone loves the simple thought of being able to put something in the Crock-Pot in the morning. Then, you come home after work to a finished meal that IS that simple, but is it that good?

When cooking in the crock-pot, essentially what you’re doing is simmering the protein in a liquid that will turn that protein tender over time. Technically that process is called braising. To braise means ‘to cook (meat, fish or vegetables) by sautéing in fat and then simmering slowly in very little liquid.’ The difference between braising and using a Crock-Pot is, when you braise in a pot or dutch oven, you can build on top of the flavors by searing and deglazing.

Gathering Your Meats

Unlike when you’re cooking steaks or pork chops and spending more money on those quick-cooking meats when you choose the meats for braising, you will be spending way less on bigger pieces of meat. When braising either pork, chicken or beef, you want to look for the tougher, fattier and harder working pieces. This is because the proteins break down and so will the fats that will result in a more flavorful product.

Trusting The Process

Braising has five easy steps, if you follow these steps every time, you will have a great product at the end. No matter what.

Step  Sear your meat

By searing the meat, you create a barrier to keep all of the juices in the meat. By doing that, it will bring a more complex flavor to the end product. Color equals flavor.

Step  Sautéing your vegetables

Once the meat is seared, there will be vegetables that need to be cooked as well. When cooking the vegetables you will follow the same idea as step one.

Step  Deglazing

Deglazing is a fancy way of saying you’re collecting all of the delicious brown pieces left on the bottom of the pan. You can deglaze with any liquid whether its wine, beer, vinegar, stock or even water. When that cold liquid hits the hot pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the pieces off, which will help flavor your liquid.

Step  Cover with liquid

Once the meat and vegetables are seared and the pan is deglazed, it’s time to add the liquid you’ll cook in. When adding the liquid, only add enough to where it reaches halfway up the protein you’re cooking with. If you cover it completely, you’ll be stewing the meat.

Step  Cover and cooking

The final step is to make sure your meat and liquid are in a heat-proof pan. Cover it with a lid or foil and then stick it in a 350-degree oven for any time up to five hours.

Braised Pull Pork Shoulder with Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients

5-8 lb pork shoulder

Salt

Pepper

2 onions, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

½ bunch of celery, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1 Tablespoon of cumin

2 – 12oz cans of light beer

2 quarts chicken stock, or water

Fresh thyme

1 head of cabbage (red or green)

1 cup mayo

1 cup of buttermilk

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon white vinegar

10 burger buns

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start by heating a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, cover pork shoulder with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into to pan, carefully place pork shoulder into the pan. Continue to brown the shoulder on all four sides while being careful not to burn it. Once the pork is browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add in your vegetables to the pan and stir around until the vegetables are softened. Deglaze the pan with the beer, add in the stock and spices. Bring to a simmer. Add in the pork shoulder. Cover and place into the oven for five-six hours.

Once the pork has braised in the oven, take it out. Wait for it to cool down a bit and then shred the pork. Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Joe Brunner

Written by Joe Brunner

South Fargo native Joe Brunner is the co-owner and executive chef at Fargo dining staple Mezzaluna.

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