I never really thought I would become a slow-cooker person. But the demands of my job are fairly unpredictable. At the same time, I have noticed that having something good to eat at a reasonable hour (and by “good to eat” and “reasonable hour,” I mean not Indian delivery at 9:30 p.m.) contributes to the general happiness of the household. A few weeks ago I purchased a slow cooker. I have been learning to use it—what is good and what is not—and have been noticing that it definitely contributes to the net joy in the house. It is such a relief to come home and remember that, oh wait, supper is already done! Not only that, the cooker I got is large enough that it guarantees leftovers for at least another day or two.
In the process, I have realized that a lot of what I prefer to cook is, really, slow-cooker fare. I do a lot of low-and-slow braising on weekends, anyway. All it means, having a slow-cooker, is that I can have these meals during the week, too. The good news is that if you do not have a slow cooker, you can still use these recipes in the oven. Just remember, you can’t leave your oven unattended the way you can the slow cooker. This dish, in particular, is a genre of pork roast that I’ve made in various permutations for years. It works great in the slow cooker and in the oven. When the pork is finished the lean loin cut has become fork tender, and in the process it has produced its own remarkable onion- and apple-scented sauce. Here’s to civilized weeknight eating.
Pork loin roast w bacon, apples + onions
Serves about 6
- 2 slices of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut into pieces
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- boneless pork loin roast (the whole loin roast, not just the tenderloin)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground dried chile
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large apple, unpeeled, cut into wedges
- 1 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1. In a large skillet, warm bacon over medium-high heat with oil. When shimmering and bacon is beginning to render its fat, turn heat to medium and add the loin roast. Brown the loin roast very well on all sides (this takes 8 to 10 minutes per side) and then place in the crock of your slow cooker. (Alternatively you can place it in a large oven-proof Dutch oven with a lid. In this case, preheat the oven to 275 F.) Rotate the roast and sprinkle with the salt, ginger, and ground chile.
2. Return the skillet to the stove. If it does not have enough oil in it to fry the onions and apple, add another glug of vegetable oil. Warm the skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and apples. Give the pan a few shakes at first and then let the apples and onions sit and get very brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then stir the apples and onions and continue cooking until very brown. Scrape bacon, onion, and apple over roast in the crock of the slow-cooker.
3. Return skillet to stove. Add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and scrape assiduously with a spatula or spoon to get all the brown bits from the pan. Simmer for about 1 minute and then add to the roast in the crock. At this point assess how much liquid is surrounding the roast in the slow cooker. Liquid should be about half-way up the side of the roast. Add more stock if necessary. Make sure the top of the roast is exposed and is not covered with apples or onions (push them to the side if necessary).
4. Turn slow cooker to the “high” setting and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or cook for “low” from 8 to 9 hours. Internal temperature of pork should be at least 160 F before eating. (In my experience, after 4 hours on “high” the internal temperature is well over 200 F.) (If cooking in covered Dutch oven at 275 F, bring entire pan to a rolling boil and place in the oven. Cook with lid on for 3 to 4 hours and then proceed with recipe.)
5. Remove pork to a cutting board to rest. Place a bowl in the sink or on the counter, with a sieve over it. Pour everything left in the pan or crock into the sieve and collect in the bowl. Take a spoon and press the apples and onions against the sieve, pushing much of the liquid and passing some (now pureed) solids into the broth. Take the liquid in the bowl and pour it into a saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce until a thick sauce is formed. Taste for salt, and add more if necessary. (This will depend upon how salty your bacon was.) Serve pork warm with some of the sauce.