Before long, spring will push us outdoors for clean-up chores. For those who are at home during the day or people who shoehorn those chores in after work, a fragrant, slow-cooked pork dinner can satisfy that work-induced hunger. It’s worth a bit of advance planning. Do the prep work earlier in the day and then let the slow cooking make the pork tender and tasty. It will be your reward for all that hard work.
Slow Cooker Hawaiian-Style Ribs
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 1/2 to 6 hours
Yield: 6 servings (4 ribs per serving)
2 racks pork back ribs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), cut into 3- or 4-rib sections
2 cups hoisin sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
— In a medium bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, pineapple juice, ginger, and sesame oil. Arrange the ribs in a slow cooker and pour half of the sauce mixture over the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until the ribs are very tender. Set the remaining sauce aside in the refrigerator.
About 1/2 hour before the ribs are done, remove the sauce from the refrigerator, to bring it to room temperature. Arrange the ribs on plates or a platter and brush both sides with some of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds, if using. Serve the rest of the remaining sauce at the table.
Per serving: 770 calories, 48g fat, 16g saturated fat, 135mg cholesterol, 3590mg sodium, 65g carbohydrates, 27g protein, 0g fiber.
Smoky Pork, Bacon, and White Bean Chili
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: About 1 hour, 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds pork loin roast, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8 ounces thick-cut bacon (5-6 slices), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans or other white beans, drained
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
— In a large saucepan or small stockpot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Add the onion to the bacon fat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and paprika. Stir in the tomatoes (with their juices) and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
Stir in the beans and about 2/3 of the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve the chili garnished with the remaining bacon and the sour cream and scallions, if using.
Suggestions: To make this chili even more smoky, add a finely chopped chipotle chile (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce) along with the onion, or add some cayenne powder along with the chili powder.
You can also cook this recipe in a slow cooker — start it in a large skillet, then just before adding the tomatoes, transfer everything to a slow cooker and proceed from there in the slow cooker. On the side, serve warm tortillas, tortilla chips, corn bread, or a green salad with radishes, avocado, and cilantro.
Per serving (without garnish): 500 calories, 22g fat, 7g saturated fat, 95mg cholesterol, 1080mg sodium, 3g carbohydrates, 40g protein, 9g fiber.
Southwestern Pork Pot Roast
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 2 1/4 hours
Yield: 8 servings
1 3-pound boneless pork shoulder, tied with kitchen twine if necessary
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral-flavored oil
Salt and pepper
1 19-ounce can or 2 1/4 cups mild or medium red enchilada sauce*
1 small white onion, cut into 12 wedges (slice through the root end so that each wedge has a bit of the root holding it together)
12 ounces small red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 15-ounce can hominy, drained*
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (optional)
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)
— Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, season the pork with salt and pepper. In an oven-ready skillet, braising pan, or Dutch oven large enough to comfortably hold the pork with the lid on, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until well-browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate or platter and set aside.
Add the enchilada sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits (be careful, it may splatter). Return the pork to the skillet, along with any accumulated juices, and return to a boil. Cover the skillet, place it in the oven, and cook for 1 hour.
Turn the meat over and add the onion and potatoes to the skillet, submerging them in the liquid. Cover and cook until the vegetables start to soften, about 30 minutes.
Add the hominy, cover, and cook until the pork is tender but not falling apart, the onion and potatoes are tender, and the hominy is heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, set aside, letting the meat rest in the liquid for 15 minutes.
Remove the meat from the skillet, remove the kitchen twine, if necessary, and slice the meat across the grain. Arrange on plates or a platter with the vegetables alongside. Drizzle with a little sauce. Sprinkle with the queso fresco and garnish with the cilantro, if using. Serve the remaining sauce at the table.
Suggestions: To kick up the heat, use hot enchilada sauce, add some cayenne powder or chili sauce along with the enchilada sauce, or add sliced chiles along with the onions and potatoes. Staying with the Southwestern theme, serve warm tortillas on the side.
Per serving: 380 calories, 15g fat, 5g saturated fat, 115mg cholesterol, 840mg sodium, 21g carbohyrates, 37g protein, 3g fiber.
(Recipes courtesy National Pork Board)