Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder & Hoppin' John::here's to the New Year!
*sigh of relief*
The holidays are finally over. It's finally the new year. I thought about doing a recap, a redux of the year, review of my least and most favorites, resolutions, and all of that good stuff. But instead, I decided to just give you my 2 favorite New Year's recipes. I promise they will give you the energy to start a new year. Special thanks to Chef Chef for teaching me to appreciate Hoppin' John and giving me guidance for making it, a few years ago.
First up, the pork shoulder. This recipe could not be easier - seriously. Last year, before my slow cooker exploded (not literally, it just burned a slow death on this very day), I put the whole mess in the slow cooker before going to work and then, when Husband and I arrived home after our long nights at work, the entire house was full of the smell of pork. Unfortunately, I don't like to leave my gas oven running while I'm at work for 10 hours, so I had to make it overnight. And, at about 5am, the amazing smell of yummy pork actually woke me up.
New Year's Day Pork & Kraut - serves however many you'd like. Husband and I like to leave it on the "keep warm" setting of the oven and pick at it all day, and then have leftovers. I'd say this serves about 6.
7 pound piece of bone-in pork shoulder, aka pork butt
salt & pepper
2 28 oz jars sauerkraut
5 whole allspice berries
1 tsp fennel seeds
1" stick cinnamon
5 whole cloves
2 (12 ounce) bottles of beer, preferably not a lite beer, but something fuller bodied - I used Columbus Brewing Company's Ohio Honey Wheat
Place the pork butt in a large Dutch oven or stock pot (mine fit in my trusty All Clad 8 quart stock pot) and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Turn it so that the fat side is up - my theory is that the fat will melt down over the pork and keep it delicious. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I've always done it that way. Dump the sauerkraut over - including the juices, add in the seasonings and the beer - the pork should be almost covered in liquid, and covered with the kraut. Cover the pot. Place in the oven and set the heat for 275 degrees - think low and slow. The pork should be done in about 7-8 hours, but you can pretty much leave it in for up to 10 hours without harm. Alternatively, you can cook it in a slow cooker set on low heat for about the same amount of time. You can pretty much tell the pork is done when you prod it with tongs and the meat just falls off. Serve hot with a good amount of sauerkraut on top. This recipe is also really good with the addition of a great knackwurst (slice them up and you only need about 1/2 per person when you have all of that pork butt). Alas, I didn't make it to Thurn's in time this past Saturday.
You might notice I did not brown the meat - you are certainly welcome to do so, but I am usually making this dish in a bad mood (ie, having to go to work on NYE), so I like to keep it criminally easy, and it's so delicious, there's no reason to stress out about it. It should be easy, especially if you have *ahem* indulged the night before. I'm just nursing my sore knees and feet.
Hoppin' John is a Southern tradition that I had never heard of until my previous restaurant job, where Chef taught me to love it and the basic principles of making it. More than a sum of its parts, Hoppin' John is cheap and nutritious, and tasty to boot. Basically, it is black eye peas and rice, with bell peppers and bacon. A good dose of Tabasco when eating never hurt anyone, either. A lot of people are scared of black eye peas, for some reason, but they are really good. They have a rich, full flavor - almost a little smoky, which makes them perfect with another delicious pork product - bacon! The story is, one should eat Hoppin' John & collard greens on New Year's day to bring prosperity in the coming year - the black eye peas are for coins, and the collards are for dollar bills. Alas, when I was doing my shopping (stupidly, last-minute) at Weiland's, and they didn't have any kind of fresh braising greens, so I guess Husband and I will only have lots of coins this year. Sounds about right. This recipe is just a guideline - you can adjust it however you'd like after you make this basic version the first time.
Hoppin' John - serves about 6
6 nice thick strips of bacon, cut into 4 strips lengthwise, and then into 1/4" dice
1 medium red onion, small dice
1 red bell pepper, small dice
1 green bell pepper, small dice
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, mashed in garlic press
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
2 cans black eye peas, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken stock (homemade, of course) or water, plus a little more if needed
salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp butter
Lots of Tabasco, to serve
Render the bacon over medium-high heat until it is nicely browned and crisp. Drain about half of the fat off. Leaving the bacon in the pan, add the onions and cook until they are soft, about 5 minutes, then add the pepper. Cook a few more minutes, until the peppers begin to soften, and then add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. Add the rice and stir everything to coat nicely. Add the peas. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot; simmer for 20 minutes, checking after 15, just to make sure you don't need anymore stock or water. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes. The stock should be absorbed and the rice soft. The taste actually improves after sitting for another 10 minutes or so on low heat, just letting the flavors meld together. Taste to check seasoning - because bacon can be very salty, I usually don't add salt at the beginning of the cooking process as I typically would when cooking rice (or any starch, really) - and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the butter. Turn the heat off and place in bowls with Tabasco on the side.
Serve with the bottle of Egly you brought home from work and didn't have the energy to drink.
Here's to a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!