January 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Slow-cookers are like magical dinner-making fairies. Or really awesome sous chefs. Seriously, I throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, set it on low, go to work and come home to a fantastically yummy meal? Best thing ever. Someone needs to give its inventor a medal. Or at least a hug, on my behalf.
All that said, I don’t use my cooker as often as I intend to, mostly because I want the prep to be as simple as possible and I balk at anything requiring more than 5 ingredients and 10 minutes. (It’s tough enough for me to get up extra early to get the ingredients together. Added thinking or excessive time cannot be required, or I will go right back to bed.) So when I saw this taco recipe from our fabulous food editors, Tara and Khalil, in our February issue, I couldn’t wait to make it!
A small disclosure: The recipe called for pork loin, which is lower in fat than the cut I used, pork shoulder. I happened to have pork shoulder in the freezer and wanted to use it, so my tacos were a bit less good-for-you than Tara’s version! (Hers is above on the left, and mine is on the right. I could have benefited from some better lighting.)
Prep could not have been easier. I cut the meat in half, chopped up onions and carrots in my little food processor, minced some garlic and a chipotle chili and plopped it all in the pot with the rest of the ingredients: cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Besides the spices and cilantro, there are only eight ingredients, and I already had most of them!
I also cooked the dish longer than the recipe called for because I’m out of the house at work and commuting for at least 10 hours a day, so I couldn’t turn it off after eight, and my cooker doesn’t have a timer. Now I know that I don’t have to pass up recipes that call for shorter cooking times: Tara says that as long as it’s a hearty recipe, like tacos, a pot roast or other meat, it’ll be fine if you need to leave it cooking for longer than the recipe directs.
And the result: SO GOOD. The meat was so tender I could have pulled it apart with a toothpick, and the beans and tomatoes were delicious with the meat. I served them with red onions and corn tortillas, as the recipe called for, but I couldn’t find queso fresco in my neighborhood grocery store so I used regular cheddar and jack cheese. And another tip from Tara: Heat up your tortillas before you serve them so that they don’t break. Mine turned into a bit of a mess because I didn’t know this rule so my tacos cracked when I took the first bite. But really, it would be pretty tough to goof this recipe up. It got a big thumbs up from my boyfriend, too: He scarfed no less than five tacos, and only stopped there because I wanted to save some leftovers!
Find more delicious, easy slow-cooker recipes here, or pick up our February issue, on newsstands now.
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