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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Italian Slow Cooker Variation

During our almost 29 straight days of sun here in Seattle we had maybe 2 cloudy, cool nights. On one of them, we decided to make comfort food suitable for a dark day in December. This is absolutely one of my favorite dinners for simple reasons - I just love the taste of tomatoes, rosemary, wine, and braised anything, but also because upon opening the door after work the house is filled with the smell of a meal all ready to go.
The Creamy, Cheesy Polenta for the side dish is key for my enjoyment, but if you're in a hurry it would be a great with buttery noddles or roasted potatoes. It's made the exact same way as our Slow Cooker Pork Taco Filling so I've just copied those instructions with a little variation.

Slow Cooker Pork, Italian Flavors

3 to 4 pounds pork
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup red wine*
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 - 2 big springs of fresh rosemary
1 T oregano
2 bay leaves
tiniest smidge of cinnamon
  • Trim the fat from whatever boneless pork is on sale (but don't go crazy, fat=flavor). If you're doing meat in the oven, the fat renders and drips into the pan, but if you're doing meat in the slow cooker all the fat stays in the cooker.
  • Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and brown it on all sides - you're not cooking it now, just creating flavor (because brown also = flavor). Put the meat in the slow cooker and put the lid on.
  • In the same pan, saute the onion until the edges start to brown, scraping up any good bits the pork left behind. Then add the garlic and saute just until it starts to brown.
  • Add the the tomatoes and wine and boil for about 5 minutes (save this pan to the side in case you need to reduce a little wine later to add in).
  • Pour this over the meat in the cooker, add the bay leaves and rosemary, and give it a bit of a stir so that the meat is coated. Scrape down the inside of the cooker so that no sauce is splashed above the line of sauce/meat (this helps with clean-up and prevents burned edges).
  • Cook on High for 6 to 8 hours.*
  • Break the meat into chunks and serve it over Creamy, Cheesy Polenta (be sure to spoon the sauce over the top).
* I have an old slow cooker so High is plenty high enough, but I'm not sure it really equals the High of a new, fancy cooker. If you have a hot cooker (or if you're not sure), check to see if it needs more liquid after 6 hours. If yes, add another cup of wine, but be sure to simmer the wine for about 5 minutes first. Wine added right to the cooker can make the dish taste a little alcoholy.

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