Saturday, February 20, 2010

Slow-Cooked Asian Comfort

It's official: I am over winter. Over it, I say! It's been one of those rare winters where we've had snow on the ground since Christmas. Snow on the ground since Christmas blows. Especially if you have small children and are the Shmuck in the Neighborhood Who Lets All the Stray Kids Into Her House.

A few weekends ago, it was cold and snowy and I had a house-full of kids...most of whom were not my own. I was frantic all day, running from room-to-room, trying to prevent the utter destruction of my house. It was harrowing.

The good news? I'd had the foresight to plop dinner in the crock-pot early in the day, so it was just a matter of cooking some vegetables and soba to serve on the side.

The Chinese call this method of slow-braising "red cooking"; the meat turns a reddish-mahogany hue from the soy and is fragrant with anise and cinnamon.

It's incredibly comforting. Especially after a day preventing mass destruction.

Asian Pork with Noodles
serves 6-8

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
6 to 8 whole dried shiitake mushrooms*
1 pound soba or ramen noodles
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced
2 Fresno chile peppers, seeded and thinly sliced**
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, star anise and cinnamon stick in a 5 quart slow cooker. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the garlic, ginger and mushrooms. Add the pork, cover and cook 4 hours on high, then 2 hours on low, or 6 hours total on low.

Transfer the pork to a platter, cover and let rest 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the broth and halve them, then return to the broth. Skim fat off the top of the broth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Slice the pork, removing any pieces of fat. Divide the noodles among bowls and top with some of the broth, mushrooms and slices of pork. Garnish with the water chestnuts, cilantro, chiles and scallions. ~I also steamed some broccoli and added bean sprouts for crunch.

* I couldn't find these to save my life. I just used dried mixed mushrooms.
** ditto the Fresno peppers. Jalapenos work fine.

It was a perfect night for noodle slurping and cuddling and watching Jeopardy! Which is exactly what we did. Okay, maybe winter isn't *all* bad.


  1. You are a life saver! We love Asian cuisine and I love my crockpot (but I'm still saving up for the one at Williams Sonoma - the one where you can braise your meat right on the stove top in the crockpot insert and then just slip the insert back into the crock holder - ahhh, a girl can dream!) And I don't have any Asian recipes for my crockpot. Thanks for giving me my first!

  2. Perfect! I am just getting into using my crockpot, and I love using it for pork and I am sick of bbq pulled pork, and I love Asian food...and we've had a cold winter, no snow, but colder than usual for longer than like I said perfect!! I am definitely making this! Thanks!

    So how do you get all the strays to go home?

  3. Looks wonderful, I love the warm comfort of a slow cooked meal! It kind of makes you feel whole. This looks wonderful, savory and I'll bet the flavor just keeps going with every bite.

  4. Mmmmmm something about that particular combination of spices is so tasty. I haven't broken out the slow-cooker in ages but I think you've given me a reason.

    As for strays, you are extremely brave. And the rest of the moms in the neighborhood seem to be taking advantage of it! I hope there's some reciprocity in other forms, if they don't take their turns with the wandering droves ...

  5. Any dish with fresh cilantro is a favorite of mine. Glad you got to slurp and cuddle.

  6. That sounds like something I should make this weekend. The weather sucks everywhere apparently, so that looks like a great idea for dinner. And pork shoulder is a cheap cut of meat, which is perfect for my new "budget" =)

  7. YUM! I am adding this to my menu.

  8. Really, really, really makes me wish I didn't stop eating pork when I was five years old. There is no way a veggie protein would hold up to this glorious treatment. *sigh*
    Glad it's warming you up, though.

  9. This sounds perfect for the winter doldrums! I really need to get a slow cooker... Beautiful photo too!

  10. Let's be honest, I'm not usually here for the recipes. I'm here for the stories that precede the recipes. And it's not because I don't appreciate the recipes, but because I've got ZERO time and patience for cooking when the kids are literally clawing at the cabinets and the pantry at 5:00 pm SHARP--pulling out chips and opening up the mega-size bag of Goldfish and snacking at will. I try to get ANYTHING at all on the table that could somehow constitute a dinner. This combined with the fact that Dan is home past dinner most nights, and when I DO make a real meal, he generally misses it. (And we absolutely SUCK at eating leftovers.)

    HOW-EVER...Crockpot I can do. Asian I love. So this one hits home, TKW. One problemo, me no eatta the pork-o. Substitute, please? Beef or chicken?

    Yours Truly,
    Slacker Mom Sarah

  11. I'm so done with winter as well--I'm definitely in my February funk. I wouldn't mind an unseasonably warm March, that's for sure.

    If I had a slow-cooker I would definitely make this, so perhaps figuring out how to braise it in a dutch oven is in order...

  12. Yum...this looks delish. We often have a Crock-Pot recipe a week here (tomorrow's is Kahlua pork), so this is going on the list.

    Although, you know I'm gonna eliminate the peppers. I'm soft like that.

  13. Sarah,

    You can totally do either chicken or beef. For chicken, use skinned, bone-in chicken thighs and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.

    You can also use a beef rump roast (3-lb). Cook on low for 4 hours, turn it over and cook in on low for another 3 hours.

    And you WILL want the leftovers! This dish tastes even better the next day!

  14. You sound like a good mommy to me! Nothing is better than a houseful of kids. Even if they aren't all yours. "Things" can be replaced but the fun everyone had and your kindness will be remembered.

    Your slow-cooked dinner looks marvelous!

  15. I am not looking forward to being the "fun house on the street". Ohhh maybe I can be a grouch to all of the kids and they wont want to come over!!! lol
    Love your dinner!

  16. Oh yum! Do you think there's something I could substitute for the soy sauce so this could be gluten free?

    Also, I am totally the schmuck who lets all the neighborhood kids in the house. Every kid in a 2-mile radius knows by heart: "This is not a playground, it's a home!"

    You're faster than me so you know about your fun award already. :)

  17. You had me at pork shoulder! :D Love everything about this dish - delicious!

  18. I have to disagree with Barbara - lots of stuff is better than a houseful of kids. But of course kids are wonderful too....

    But lets say all of us that commented here won a 6 day cruise of the Greek Isles with one massage a day, easy yoga classes, and all food taken from TKW's recipes? (we would have Oprah's chef or something - of course TKW wouldn't have to cook!!!) Now, wouldn't that be better than a houseful of kids? I am SO SICK of winter weather. REALLY REALLY OVER IT!!!!!

    I miss California. I don't know what I would do without you wonderful women, ESPECIALLY TKW.

  19. That sounds like the perfect late February meal!

  20. I am sooo over winter and all about my slow cooker right now.....Can I substitute the sherry?

  21. Kelly--I had no idea that soy sauce had gluten in it? Weird? Here's what I'd do. I'd combine 2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce with a scant cup of chicken broth and proceed accordingly. Should turn out fine, although you may need to adjust and add salt.

    Jen: are you worried about the alcohol? With that much time in the cooker, the alcohol will cook off, for sure. But if you are still skittish, try substituting orange juice :)

  22. Ooooh, I needed a little somethin' new for my crock-pot. Thank you!

  23. Wrong!! Winter IS all bad!! Don't deny it!!

    Ok. Maybe there really are some good things about it. Like the snuggles. I love to snuggle up with my husband under our sheets. Perfect way to end a chilly day.

  24. That sounds like the perfect meal... Sending you some Middle Eastern sunshine :0)

  25. I am going to try this one. I even think I have everything in my pantry and freezer...even the broccoli! Thanks for the "little bit of spring in a dreary snowy world all mixed together in the crockpot" recipe!

  26. oh my, that asian comfort looks sooo yummy. I love asian food. I'm new to your blog, and I LOVE your header, sooooo cute!
    Just like meeting other moms and connecting via blogs.

  27. Yum. I've never been good with a slow cooker. Everything seems to turn to mush for me. But, I may actually give this a try. The flavors sound delicious.

  28. Well being in Arizona and harboring major winter/snow jealousy (can I EVER wear my beautiful sweaters???) I have to say I'd like more winter. Just a little bit. I have to settle for on and off rain. Eh.

    I love a house full of kids until I realize that it also means being a referee and a cook and that they're actually going to eat/drink me out of house and home. Other than that, I love it...

  29. So excited! Love my crockpot and always searching for recipes. Perfect! I laughed when I read your repetition of "Snow on the Ground" because it reminded me of American Idol's contestant who sang a song called, "Pants on the Ground, Pants on the ground". Are you familiar? No? Never mind then. :)

  30. Yum yum is almost dinner time and this has made me so hungry! xxx PS Yeah I'm so over winter too...but it is still snowing! Go away snow! xxx

  31. I always end up with all the kids at my house too!! This sounds delicious!!

  32. Yumm! I could actually pull out the crock pot again for this recipe, thanks

  33. This makes me homesick... :-)

    I can get you the whole Shitake mushrooms dried. You just need to trust me enough to let me know where to mail them to you! I don't even know why I have them. Probably once in my denial I thought I'd one day use them. Ha ha ha. Of course, I will get you a new bag. :-)