When the weather turns warmer, my tastebuds desperately desire Southeast Asian influenced cuisine. Lemongrass is one of the flavours that defines this region to me, and it has been muggy and hot, so it should come as no surprise that I have been on a lemongrass kick lately. I love the classic combination of lemongrass, garlic, ginger, basil and cilantro with a little spicy kick that -at least to my mind- typifies Vietnamese cuisine. I decided to make a paste of all of these goodies (plus a few other tasty odds and ends for good measure!) and smear it all over a boneless pork loin and plunk it into my slow-cooker while I went about my daily business. Within two hours, I was ready to gnaw off my own leg because the house smelled so good. Slow-Cooker Lemongrass Pork was born and it was magnificent.
Since we started the process with a boneless center-cut pork loin which was further broken down into 3-inch cubes before it went into the slow-cooker, the process was actually a lot faster than you might think. It only took 5 hours on HIGH to become fall-apart tender. I used tongs to transfer all of the pork out of the pan juices and into a mixing bowl. The pan juices were then strained into a saucepan over high heat where they reduced to an intense sauce for the pork. The pork itself was shredded with two forks then tossed with the reduced pan sauce. Voila! That is ALL it took. I served the Slow-Cooker Lemongrass Pork garnished with fresh cilantro on lettuce wraps, rice bowls, on salads, in spring rolls (recipe coming soon!), and straight up on a fork. My kids liked it topped with a fried egg for breakfast or tucked into quesadillas for lunch or snack. The beauty of it is that it makes enough to do ALL of these things in turn.
- To make the shredding process less eyeball and labour intensive, do yourself a favour and trim the fat off in large slabs before you break the pork loin down into large cubes. If you like a more succulent end product, you can slide a slab or two of the fat into the slow-cooker on top of the meat to “baste” the it as it cooks. If you like a leaner product, simply omit the fat.
- Slice the pork into cubes that are roughly 3-inches, give or take a smidge. The goal, overall, is really to keep them consistently sized so they cook at the same rate.
- Once you’ve broken down the pork into cubes, transfer them to your slow-cooker crock. Stir together all of the remaining ingredients and use your hands to smear the pork thoroughly. If you’re using the pork, slide it in on top of the meat now. Cover the crock and let it go! It won’t take long now.
- Once you’ve transferred the tender pork cubes to the mixing bowl, strain the cooking juices into a pan to remove the solids. Fire the burner up on high and reduce the juices to an intense pan sauce that is about 1/5 of the original volume. While it’s reducing, shred the pork. As soon as the pan sauce reaches the stage of intensity you like, pour it over the pork and toss to coat. You’re now ready to serve it any which way you like!
Slow-Cooker Lemongrass Pork
- 4 pounds boneless center-cut pork loin, trimmed of fat and sliced into 3-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup raw sugar or light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste or 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass smashed to release juices
- 3 tablespoons grated ginger or ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons garlic paste or 8 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 fresh jalapeno peppers sliced in half, or 2 bird chiles, pierced several times with a sharp knife
- 1 handful fresh cilantro stalks well rinsed
- 1 stem fresh basil leaves
- 1 lime juiced and zested
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce
- chopped cilantro for garnish
- Place the pork cubes in the crock of a slow-cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to the slow-cooker and use your hands to rub it around and evenly coat the pork cubes. Cover the slow-cooker and cook on HIGH for 5 hours, or LOW for 8 hours, or until the pork is fall-apart tender. Use tongs to transfer the tender pork cubes to a mixing bowl. Strain the cooking juices into a saucepan over high flame or heat, and boil to reduce to 1/5 of the original volume or until dark and fragrant. While the sauces reduce, shred the pork with 2 forks. When the pan sauce is done, pour over the pork and toss to coat. Serve immediately, garnished with additional cilantro, or divide into individual meal sized portions and freeze for up to 3 months.