Slow-Cooked Asian Comfort

February 20, 2010

It’s official: I am over winter. Over it, I say! It’s been one of those rare winters where we’ve had snow on the ground since Christmas. Snow on the ground since Christmas blows. Especially if you have small children and are the Shmuck in the Neighborhood Who Lets All the Stray Kids Into Her House.

A few weekends ago, it was cold and snowy and I had a house-full of kids…most of whom were not my own. I was frantic all day, running from room-to-room, trying to prevent the utter destruction of my house. It was harrowing.

The good news? I’d had the foresight to plop dinner in the crock-pot early in the day, so it was just a matter of cooking some vegetables and soba to serve on the side.

The Chinese call this method of slow-braising “red cooking”; the meat turns a reddish-mahogany hue from the soy and is fragrant with anise and cinnamon.

It’s incredibly comforting. Especially after a day preventing mass destruction.

Asian Pork with Noodles
serves 6-8

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
6 to 8 whole dried shiitake mushrooms*
1 pound soba or ramen noodles
1/4 cup water chestnuts, sliced
2 Fresno chile peppers, seeded and thinly sliced**
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, star anise and cinnamon stick in a 5 quart slow cooker. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the garlic, ginger and mushrooms. Add the pork, cover and cook 4 hours on high, then 2 hours on low, or 6 hours total on low.

Transfer the pork to a platter, cover and let rest 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the broth and halve them, then return to the broth. Skim fat off the top of the broth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Slice the pork, removing any pieces of fat. Divide the noodles among bowls and top with some of the broth, mushrooms and slices of pork. Garnish with the water chestnuts, cilantro, chiles and scallions. ~I also steamed some broccoli and added bean sprouts for crunch.

* I couldn’t find these to save my life. I just used dried mixed mushrooms.
** ditto the Fresno peppers. Jalapenos work fine.

It was a perfect night for noodle slurping and cuddling and watching Jeopardy! Which is exactly what we did. Okay, maybe winter isn’t *all* bad.

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