Slow-Cooker Sweet-and-Sour Pork
This crowd-pleasing blend of tender pork shoulder, juicy pineapple and sweet red peppers simmered in a spicy-tangy-sweet sauce is nothing like the fluorescent deep-fried dish found under the same name in some restaurants. Serve it over steamed rice to discover how good this Chinese-American favorite can be. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a flameproof insert, you can brown the pork in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven before transferring it to your slow cooker.
- 4 1/2 lb. (2.25 kg) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 equal pieces
- Kosher salt
- 1 large can (20 oz./625 g) plus 1 small can (8 oz./250 g) pineapple chunks in juice
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) rice vinegar
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) water
- 2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 Tbs. canola oil
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into strips
- 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 fresh red chiles such as Fresno or serrano, seeded and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
Season the pork with salt. Drain both cans of pineapple, reserving the fruit and juice separately. Cover the pineapple chunks and refrigerate until needed. Measure 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the juice and pour into a bowl. Discard the remaining juice or reserve for another use. Add the vinegar, cornstarch mixture, soy sauce and sugar to the pineapple juice and whisk to combine.
Put a flameproof slow-cooker insert on the stove top over medium-high heat, then add the oil and warm until hot. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the pork pieces and sear them on the first side without moving them until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the pieces and sear on the second side until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces, adding them to the plate.
Pour off the fat from the insert and transfer the insert to the slow cooker. Add the browned pork, bell pepper, onion, chiles and garlic and toss and stir as needed to combine the vegetables evenly with the pork. Briefly whisk the pineapple juice mixture, then pour evenly over the pork and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
Uncover, add the reserved pineapple chunks and stir to mix evenly. Re-cover and continue to cook on low for 2 hours longer. The pork should be very tender.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Using 2 forks, break the pork into bite-size chunks, discarding any large pieces of fat. Transfer the pork to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. If you like, strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan and add the pineapple and vegetables to the bowl holding the pork. Put the pan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and boil until the liquid is syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the pork, pineapple and vegetables to a platter and pour the cooking liquid over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma The New Slow Cooker (Weldon Owen, 2010)