Life: Why is it so hard to get children to eat vegetables? I know this is bemoaned by parents the world over, and I’m not the only one… But why, why, why is it so complicated?
We actually didn’t have a veggie consumption problem until recently. When the kids were smaller they never gave me a problem. In fact, Aiden used to adore a nice green salad. He’d pick up the lettuce pieces one by one and dip them in his dressing and make the happiest sounds. A one year old doing this? Absolutely adorable.
But lately, the kids are totally boycotting the veggies. Like all the veggies. Aiden will eat them if I get on his case. But Tristan is pretty stubborn… I can barely get that child to eat a carrot.
If anyone has any suggestions?? Please enlighten me with your wisdom.
Moving on to our recipe…
Ironically, this post has nothing to do with veggies. It’s all about the pork today, but we’re going to go with it ok?
Food: I have been trying to perfect a crockpot pork tacos recipe for over a year now. Yes, literally a year. I get a little fussy about recipes sometimes. But, I knew finding the right pork tacos would be worth it. It’s hard to have a bad pork taco, but when you get a really good one, well that is like mana from heaven. And don’t we all want mana from heaven in our weeknight dinner rotation?
For a few weeks of recipe testing we ate pork tacos something like three times a week. Poor Charlie who isn’t even big on eating the same thing two nights in a row, was going completely bananas after three weeks or so. In the hopes of not making Charlie come to hate pork, tacos, and the crockpot I tried to only work on the recipe once or twice a month from there on in.
I tried at least 15 different variations in seasonings and cooking liquids. Honestly, it was probably more, but I’ve lost count at this point. I tried browning the pork before putting it in the crockpot. I tried just tossing the pork in as is. I tried broth. I tried juice. I tried beer. I tired cider. I tried water. I cooked tacos upside down and sideways. I scoured the Internet for ideas.
A lot of what I tried was pretty good but nothing was quite right.
Then after one version, where I felt like the pork had come out too watery and I wanted to see what I could do to correct the problem, other then just draining off the excess liquid I stumbled on the secret to really really good pork tacos.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
Wait for it… Guys, you have to fry the pork after it comes out of the crock pot.
I know, I know, it sounds like a total nuisance. You go to the crock pot because you want dinner ready when you get home, not because you want to come home and fry something. But, guys, 5-6 minutes with a skillet and a little oil takes crockpot pork from pretty good to mana from heaven. I’m telling you it’s the secret to absolutely amazing pork tacos!
The texture of the pork from a crockpot is generally great, it’s juicy and tender. But unfortunately, it often does end up being a little too wet. Now, you definitely can drain off the excess liquid before serving the pork. No big deal. And like I said you get a pretty good taco this way. But, fry the pork, and not only do you get rid of the excess liquid; you end up majorly enhancing the flavor of the pork. So yeah, an extra step is annoying but I’ll just say it is so, so worth it and leave it at that. (Oh, and if your worried the frying will dry the pork out, fear not, as you can see in my photos the pork remains plenty juicy. You just also end up with this great crip going on at the same time!)
So, frying is the big pork secret. I think about 1000 different variations of the pork tacos would come out amazing as long as you finished with the frying. However, I did learn a few other things along this rather long recipe testing journey that are worth mentioning, because they also contribute to the making of a great taco.
First, crockpot pork needs a much heavier hand with the spices then you think it should. Since we’re basically braising the pork and using a fair amount of liquid the flavor of the spices can wash out.
Second, the braising liquid itself is a chance to add a lot of flavor to the dish, so it’s worth using a really flavorful broth.
Oh, and we’ve gotta talk toppings. I think a nice crunchy slaw kind of topping would be fantastic on these. But, if you want to keep it really simple (which I did), top these babies with some of those pickled red onions we made a while back. (Hopefully you already have a batch sitting in the fridge!) The tangynesss and crunch of the pickled red onions is the perfect counterpoint to that juicy (but not watery) pork!
Ok, so that about covers it: Lots of spices, flavorful braising liquid, finish by FRYING, and crunchy tangy onions! Now go make tacos.
Crockpot Pork Tacos- Serves 8-10. Adapted from NYT Cooking.
- 3 lbs pork shoulder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground or flaked sea salt (if you can find smoked sea salt it’s even better!)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tsp orange zest (fresh or dried)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 4-6 tablespoons of canola oil for frying
- Fresh cilantro, minced for serving, if desired
- tortillas for serving
- Mix together the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper, oregano, ground cloves, and zest in a small bowl. Place the pork roast in the crockpot fat side up and rub with the spice mixture. Pour the broth into the crockpot without washing off the seasoning. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves to the broth. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
- When cooked, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick from the broth. Use two forks to shred the pork into the cooking liquid. If there are any large chunks of fat they can be removed.
- To fry the pork heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Drain some of the pork (how much depends on the size of your skillet, but fry in small batches) and add it to the skillet spreading it out in the pan in a thin layer. Drizzle about a tablespoon of oil over the pork and fry until a slightly crisp crust begins to develop on the pork. Flip the pork and allow the second side to fry. When both sides are lightly crisp remove from the pan.
- Serve hot, on tortillas, with plenty of quick pickled red onion for topping. Sprinkle with some fresh minced cilantro if desired. Fried pork can be returned to the cooking liquid if you are not ready to serve it or want the meat to absorb a little extra juice.