My plan was to write about a delicious-sounding summer recipe from Cooking Light called Slow-Cooked BBQ Fennel, Onion and Pork Sandwich. In my head, I had pictured moist pulled pork dripping with vinegary, fennel flavors soaking into the soft bun and running down my elbows. In my head, it was like BBQ porn. But Sunday night in my kitchen, there was no BBQ porn showing. Instead, it was more like Kitchen Nightmares. I made a classic cooking mistake. I didn’t read the recipe. I skimmed the ingredients list in order to add the necessary ingredients to my grocery list. Crushed tomatoes. Check. Fennel. Check. Hulking pork shoulder. Check. But I didn’t read the directions. If I had, I’m sorry Cooking Light because I LOVE LOVE LOVE you, but I would have thrown the recipe out immediately.
When I woke up Sunday morning, all ready to put the pork into the slow cooker, I finally took a look at the recipe. Cooking time = 30 minutes. I raised my eyebrow quizzically. How does 30 minutes qualify for “slow-cooked,” I inquired to my Cooking Light magazine? Furthermore, how is 30 minutes going to take my hulking pork shoulder and break it down into the juicy pulled pork I have come to expect from BBQ slow cooking? I immediately decided that I was going to disregard the directions and do at least a four-hour slow cook. Great plan – until life got in the way.
I found myself at 6 p.m. Sunday night having not started dinner. Ok, I said, looks like I have no choice but to follow the recipe. So I did. I chopped and cooked the pork, along with the fennel and onions, in the dutch oven on the stove top according to the directions. Other than doubling the recipe to have leftovers and substituting red wine vinegar for cider vinegar, I followed all the directions explicitly.
What do you get when you cook chopped pork shoulder for 30 minutes? Not juicy meat that’s falling apart. You get tough meat with huge pockets of fat that have not broken down. *Sigh*. If that wasn’t enough, despite all the spices and the strong fennel which sounded delicious, the pork turned out rather unflavorful. I can’t really fault Cooking Light. No one’s perfect. For every hundred amazing recipes, there’s got to be one that slips through the cracks that’s not so great.
Point being: I will not pass on this recipe, but I will pass on the tips I learned.
- Read the directions before you commit to a recipe and spend $15 on seven pounds of pork shoulder. Sure, I disregard recipe directions all the time, but you can’t disregard them until you’ve read them. Rookie mistake!
- If the title says slow-cooked and the recipe time says under an hour, there’s something wrong.
- Pork shoulder is not filet mignon. It’s fatty and cheap, which means the longer and slower you cook it, the better it tastes.
Tonight I’m cooking pasta. It’s hard to screw that up. Knock on wood…