Sunday, February 08, 2009

Field Lines Does Cooking

One thing I'm discovering is that all the warnings that life as a postdoc would leave me no free time is 100% true. I work 50-60 hours a week. It's one of those things that is not absolutely required, but the postdoc doesn't ever want to be the last person to arrive and the first to leave. Experiments usually take 5-6 hours, and it's a good feeling to be able to squeeze two in in a day. Otherwise I feel less productive. Plus, working long days in the lab in the winter gives me political capital in the spring when we want to take a long weekend to visit New York (2 hours away), Boston (45 minutes away), or DC (6 hours away). Dean calculated there are 6 major league ball parks within 6 hours of here and countless minor league parks. So while I've been working hard to earn political capital, Dean's been working overtime to earn the financial capital to fund these adventures.

As you can imagine, this schedule does not lend itself well to preparing nightly meals. I used to have a lot more time to cook as a grad student when my commute was zilch and I could work from home after dinner. So this winter I've gotten in to the habit of cooking a few large meals on the weekend, popping them in the freezer and re-heating them during the week. I still have one or two nights where I have to cook, but I usually just throw together some pasta or tacos. Among my freezer standards has been vegetable beef soup (a hybrid recipe that has morphed from my grandma's original, into my dad's which I've further modified to fit Dean's taste and to stretch into a couple more meals), turkey chili, and beef stroganoff. I've fallen back in love with my slow cooker, especially during my first real winter in six years where it has not only been used to easily cook large batches of food, but to fill the house with comforting food smells.

One recipe that I came across has been a so convenient and so tasty I thought I'd share it with you. Once a month or so I cook up a batch of pulled pork in the slow cooker and it is phenomenal. I've already shared this recipe with my dad, and one of my friends who also reads this asked me a couple weeks ago for it. I didn't get around to emailing her, so I thought instead I'd post it in hopes of spreading the deliciousness around the blogosphere. Don't laugh, but I just got it off of the Good Houskeeping website. That's what I love most about slow cooker recipes, they are often so simple, but the flavors cook together so long that you end up with nearly the same depth of flavor as a meal you've slaved over for hours. I especially like this particulr recipe because it calls for you to make your own sauce. If you don't just have this stuff laying around, it's a pain to get it all at the grocery store the first time. But buy them in large bottles and all you need to pick up the next time you make a batch is the meat and the buns. Plus, you can change any of the amounts to suit your tastes - spicy, sweet, tangy, however you want it. I really don't like sweet barbeque sauce so I go light on the brown sugar. I also substitute spicy smoked paprika to give it an extra smoky taste. I divide up the final product into 4-5 tupperware containers to put in the freezer. It isn't exactly a diet-conscience recipe and as you know, Dean and I are always trying to cut corners with fat and calories. Once you freeze the meat and retrive it to reheat, it's very easy to skim off the solidified fat to make it a little healthier. I serve the re-heated meat on kaiser rolls with reduced fat Cape Cod patato chips (you can't tell the difference) and a side Caesaer salad. We have it usually once a week and Dean has yet to get tired of it.

If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it and what you did differently!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c tomato paste
1/2 c ketchup
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c brown suger
2 tablespoons each of:
yellow mustard
Wochestershire sauce
1 & 1/2 tsp salf
1 & 1/4 tsp pepper

4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast (or 4.5 -5 lbs bone-in works fine too)

Mix sauce ingredients together in mixing bowl. Pour in slow cooker. Cut meat into 3-4 large chunks and place on top of sauce. Cover and cook on low setting 10-12 hours. Remove meat from slow cooker using tongs* and increase to high setting for 15 minutes or so to thicken sauce. While sauce is thickening, pull pork apart with forks and then return to slow cooker.

I've found that if you leave it the full 12 hours, you don't even need to remove the meat, just the bone if it was a bone-in roast. I just stand over the slow cooker picking at the meat using tongs and it just falls apart because it's so tender. Also, if you are freezing it, you don't necessarily need to thicken the sauce until you reheat it. That helps make this recipe easy to just throw together and forget about for a few hours, until the wonderful aroma sneaks up on you like those cartoon fingers...


Jeni said...

Love those crockpots!
We -or I -use the crockpot frequently here. Roast beef in the crockpot -easy as pie -just stick the meat in (you can braise it first if you want) and add a package of onion soup mix (dry) and a package of gravy mix to the meat. I mix the soup and gravy mixes with the water required and pour it over the meat and let it cook -8-10 hours or so.(Do the same with pork roasts too.) Or pork and sauerkraut -just pour the kraut over the meat and let it cook! I have a recipe too for chicken in the crockpot that turned out very good but of course, now I can't locate it! LOL
Soups and sauces though -it's a great tool to use to fix any of those things, for sure!

Hot4Teacha said...

I totally do a pulled pork in the crock pot - it's awesome, baby!! Good way to balance out home and work's got to be tough.

Moe said...

Hi! =) So it turns out, being a postdoc is pretty much the same as having a baby and doing grad school...only in the latter you just have one hand free.

The recipe is a perfect pantry food. I will try it this weekend...I just need to buy the meat. By the way, I always forget to ask from you your goulash recipe. I have to use the stuff you gave me before it runs out...those peppers and paprika are good for everything.

Happy cooking!

Dianne said...

It's great to have home cooking you can heat up during the week

plus cooking in bulk is easier - to me anyway

cool recipe

I loved your one word answers below :)

anne said...

Hi! It's been forever- I am glad to hear you guys are settling in. I check in from time to time to make sure you are doing well - sorry I have been MIA.

This recipe looks great - Magoo loves using the crock pot (a bit too much) but I will definitely pass this along.

fermicat said...

I've got a similar crock pot recipe for BBQ flank steak. Once cooked, you shred it with a fork and make sandwiches. Yummy and easy!

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