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Tag Archive: slow-cooker

Chicken Carnitas (healthy + super easy!)

January 18, 2015 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Braising anything is delicious, but when you braise something and THEN pan-fry it? HEAVEN. And that’s exactly what carnitas are.

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After being slow-cooked in a mixture of onions, citrus, and herbs and spices for 8 hours, this chicken is incredibly flavorful by itself…but when you add guacamole, salsa, raw and roasted vegetables, and other accompaniments, you have a plate filled with pure deliciousness. There’s a reason why Chipotle is so popular!

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The plate is messy, but every bite is filled with crunchies, squishies, and overall exquisite taste. This is one of those meals that once you start eating you won’t be able to stop yourself. 😉

The best part is that this dish is a breeze to put together and, while it takes a while to cook, it only requires about 5 minutes of prep-time. The magic here is in the slow cooker which, if you add enough salt and seasonings, makes food that is both super tender and flavorful.

I mean it–don’t skimp on especially the sodium chloride here (*cough* chemistry nerd alert *cough*). When I first started using my slow cooker, everything tasted incredibly bland until I bumped up the salt content…then, all of a sudden, the other flavors burst out like blooming flowers of yumminess. I promise it’s not going to be like sucking on sunflower seeds…it’s going to be a freaking amazing date with cumin, garlic, oregano, thyme, and lemon.

Another secret here is to use juniper berries. They’re an obscure ingredient, so I made it optional, but I’ve found that even adding a few makes a big difference, adding a subtle note of savory richness to the fairly mellow chicken thighs. I got mine at Penzeys, but you should be able to find them at any well-stocked grocery store.

I hesitated on posting this recipe for a while because it’s so flipping straight-forward. But after much persuasion from my mom (and a little spare time to photograph due to a shortened exam schedule), I decided to put this puppy up.

So, basically, you put the chicken in the crock pot and add all of the flavoring components…

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…let everybody hang out for 8 hours…

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…take the chicken out of its luxurious bath…

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…and fry away in olive or coconut oil until crispy heaven is achieved!

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Inspired by this recipe

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Chicken Carnitas

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 8 hr 30 min
Total Time 8 hr 30 min
Yield 6-8 servings

3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

A good crack of black pepper

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 juniper berries (optional but recommended)

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

Romaine lettuce, guacamole, salsa, and roasted vegetables, for serving

Directions

In a slow cooker, combine the chicken with all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the cooking oil and the accompaniments. Cover tightly with the lid and let cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the accumulated liquid (you can let this sit in the fridge overnight and use it for stock) and pat it dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil or coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces, breaking them up slightly with a pair of tongs. Let cook until golden brown on the bottom side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook for another few minutes.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more 1 tablespoon of oil for each batch to keep the chicken crispy.

Serve on a big plate with raw and roasted vegetables, guacamole, salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. Slow-cooked black beans would also be delicious here. 🙂


Please don’t forget the toppings. Just don’t. Eating this dish without some avocado involved is a crime against humanity.

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Which do you prefer: guacamole or salsa? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Chicken Carnitas

January 16, 2015 Print this page

Braising anything is delicious, but when you braise something and THEN pan-fry it? HEAVEN. This dish is so easy to make and tastes phenomenal every time, so get some ripe avocados for guac and get cooking!

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 8 hr 30 min
Total Time 8 hr 30 min
Yield 6-8 servings

3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

A good crack of black pepper

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 juniper berries (optional but recommended)

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

Romaine lettuce, guacamole, salsa, and roasted vegetables, for serving

Directions

In a slow cooker, combine the chicken with all of the remaining ingredients with the exception of the cooking oil and the accompaniments. Cover tightly with the lid and let cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the accumulated liquid (you can let this sit in the fridge overnight and use it for stock) and pat it dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil or coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 of the chicken pieces, breaking them up slightly with a pair of tongs. Let cook until golden brown on the bottom side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook for another few minutes.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more 1 tablespoon of oil for each batch to keep the chicken crispy.

Serve on a big plate with raw and roasted vegetables, guacamole, salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice. Slow-cooked black beans would also be delicious here. 🙂


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Easiest Roast Pork Ever

January 17, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the problem with supermarket pork is that it’s dry and flavorless; it’s not very appealing to look at, either! The problem is that all of the fed has been bred out of the pigs as a reaction to America’s (false) fear of saturated fat, leaving us with a rather unpleasant final product.

I wasn’t much of a fan of pork when I was younger. Sure, I ate pork chops, but they weren’t exactly my favorite dinner. My dad’s barbecue ribs were a special treat, something I only had a few times every summer. I longed for that juiciness provided by the fat and slow-cooking.

When I initially started my health-food journey, I stayed away from pork almost completely: if it had a lot of fat, I refused to eat it or cook it. Once in a while, I’d roast a pork tenderloin or braise it to make “pulled” pork, but it was a rare occasion. In my (uneducated) eyes, pork was neither appealing nor healthy, so why bother eating it?

One day, I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made,” and John Besh was making a whole roasted pork shoulder with garlic and rosemary. As I downed my daily tofu (yes, I used to eat tofu for breakfast), I thought, “Hmm, why not give that a try?” I had never seen a pork shoulder at the supermarket, though, so I went looking online for a butcher in my area. Almost immediately, I stumbled upon Craft Butchery, and decided to go with my dad and visit.

It was an epiphany. When I tasted their pork, I was blown away: was this the same animal I had been eating all of my life?! It was flavorful, tender, and moist, even with the limited seasonings I used. I loved taking a little nibble of the crackling on top and eating cold leftovers for lunch, too. This thus began my love-affair with pork.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve cooked with almost the entire hog. I’ve braised pig cheeks with aromatic vegetables and honey. I’ve roasted a whole ham and made delicious stock with the bone. I’ve slow-cooked shanks and hocks with dried fruit, quickly seared huge chops so they’re brown on the outside and still the slightest pink on the inside. I’ve made spare ribs and pork bellies, scallopinins and loins, sirloin roasts and tails. Out of all of the cuts, though, my favorite is by far the shoulder, otherwise known as the Boston Butt.

A perfect combination of fat and meat, the shoulder is excellent for both braising and slow-roasting. Cut into cubes, it also makes for a wonderful stew meat or base for homemade pork burgers. You can dress it up with fancy spices and herbs all you’d like, but my preferred preparation only requires two ingredients: pork and salt.

That’s it.

You’d have to be a chimpanzee to screw this recipe up. It takes some time but requires almost no effort, and depending on how big your shoulder is, you’ll have leftovers for days. When I know I’ll have a busy afternoon, this is my go-to meat. I usually prepare it with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes and a sauteed green, but you can serve it with almost anything and it’ll taste incredible.

I based this recipe on one from Nom Nom Paleo and one from The Clothes Make the Girl. Michelle and Mel are two of my biggest foodie idols, so credit goes out to them!  

Your journey to the easiest (and most delicious) pork ever begins the night before your desired eating time.

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Place your pork shoulder into a slow cooker. Mine was 3 1/2 pounds, but I’ve made ones as big as 5 pounds before. Use whatever size is best for you and your family.

Next, rub the meat with salt. I used a little more than 2 teaspoons for my pork shoulder, but figure about 1 teaspoon for every 1 1/2 pounds you use. THIS IS NO EXACT SCIENCE. Just make sure the pork is completely rubbed, and use more salt than you think you’ll need. A lot of “healthy” slow-cooker recipes skimp on salt and often wind up having very little flavor. This is because as the meat cooks, it releases a lot of water, and those flavors are diluted by all of the excess liquid. It may sound like salt city, but I promise, it won’t be like eating a bite of the ocean or drinking pure soy sauce.

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Put the lid on the slow cooker and put on low for 12 to 16 hours. Again, THIS IS NO EXACT SCIENCE. The bigger the roast, the longer it’ll need. I cooked mine for 14 hours, but I’ve cooked similar-sized pork shoulders for as few as 12 and as many as 16. Your pork is done when it’s very tender and it appears cooked on the outside.

Halfway through the cooking, you can take the pork out of the pot and pour off the accumulated liquid, if you like. This will lead to more of a “crust” on the outside. However, it’s not really necessary, so do it only if you have the time.

When the time has elapsed, your slow-cooker should automatically go to the “warm” setting, at which you can leave the cooked pork roast until dinner time. If you have an older model, make sure you switch it to “warm” or your pork will be sitting at room temperature for HOURS!

When you’re ready to eat, take off the strings of your pork roast (if they had them to begin with) and peel off the fat cap with a knife or tongs. You really don’t want to eat it, so discard it immediately. Shred the remaining pork with two forks and serve immediately.

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Before storing your leftovers, I highly recommend straining the remaining pork in a sieve. This will prevent a layer of fat from accumulating at the bottom of the container in the fridge, which is a PAIN to clean.

Looking for some ideas to revamp your leftovers? Here are a few to get you started:

  • Pork wraps in big lettuce leaves/nori with slices of avocado, bell pepper, and fresh mango
  • Pork hash with sauteed shredded potatoes or another root vegetable
  • Pork stirred into cauliflower rice with onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and coconut aminos/organic tamari
  • Pork “sandwiches” on two large sweet potato rounds with spicy greens (arugula or frisee) and homemade barbecue sauce or dijon mustard

What is your favorite cut of pork? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Easiest Roast Pork Ever

January 17, 2014 Print this page

You’d have to be a chimpanzee to screw this recipe up. It takes some time but requires almost no effort, and depending on how big your shoulder is, you’ll have leftovers for days. I usually prepare it with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes and a sauteed green, but you can serve it with almost anything and it’ll taste incredible.

Ingredients

Prep Time
Cooking Time 12-16 hr
Total Time 12-16 hr
Yield 6-8 servings

1 boneless pork shoulder (3 1/2 to 5 lb, or larger, if you’d like)

2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon of salt

Directions

Place your pork shoulder into a slow cooker.

Next, rub the meat with salt. I used a little more than 2 teaspoons for my pork shoulder, but figure about 1 teaspoon for every 1 1/2 pounds you use. THIS IS NO EXACT SCIENCE. Just make sure the pork is completely rubbed, and use more salt than you think you’ll need.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and put on low for 12 to 16 hours. Again, THIS IS NO EXACT SCIENCE. The bigger the roast, the longer it’ll need. Your pork is done when it’s very tender and it appears cooked on the outside.

Halfway through the cooking, you can take the pork out of the pot and pour off the accumulated liquid, if you like. This will lead to more of a “crust” on the outside. However, it’s not really necessary, so do it only if you have the time.

When the time has elapsed, your slow-cooker should automatically go to the “warm” setting, at which you can leave the cooked pork roast until dinner time.

When you’re ready to eat, take off the strings of your pork roast (if they had them to begin with) and peel off the fat cap with a knife or tongs. You really don’t want to eat it, so discard it immediately. Shred the remaining pork with two forks and serve immediately.


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