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Where EAST meets the Northwest

PERFECT PORK. Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Vindaloo, a recipe by Meera Sodha, is seen in Concord, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #5 (March 7, 2016), page 13.

Slow cookers bring out the best in pork and Indian flavors

By Meera Sodha

The Associated Press

There’s a real joy in slowing down in the kitchen. Gone is the frantic stress of trying to get dinner on the table in an instant and in its place comes a different type of gentle cooking. It allows beautiful smells to waft through the house and ingredients to mingle and develop over time into something deep, rich, and flavorful.

Of all slow-cooked dishes, Goan pork vindaloo is my favorite. Originally a Portuguese stew made with meat, garlic, and wine, the dish made its way to India in the 1500s with Portuguese explorers. Like so many other dishes, it then was reinterpreted. Today, vindaloo curry is a sweet, hot, and sour dish popular all over the world.

Though the modern recipe, like the original dish, still uses garlic and wine vinegar, it has changed to include chilies and lots of warming spices, such as cinnamon, cumin, and cloves. I like to use a cheaper and fattier cut of meat, such as pork shoulder, which responds well to a slow braise and shows its true colors after a few hours to become the best type of pork — succulent, sweet, and soft.

Whatever happens, rest assured that there are no wrong moves with slow cooking. It’s one of the only mediums of cooking that creates a level playing field between the pro chef and the amateur. It gives you the flexibility to sample and adjust as you go until it tastes just right. The only trouble is that after several hours of cooking, it will only take a few minutes to eat.

Editor’s note: Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen. She currently lives in London.

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Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Vindaloo

Start to finish: 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours (1/2 hour active)

Servings: 4

4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

20 black peppercorns

1 star anise

3-inch cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated (plus extra to serve)

2 teaspoons chili powder

5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 medium red onion, finely sliced

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

Plain Greek-style yogurt, to serve

Cooked basmati rice, to serve

If you’re nervous about the amount of chili powder, halve the amount called for in the recipe. It will still be delicious. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a sauté setting, start the dish in a large sauté pan, then transfer to a slow cooker.

Set the slow cooker to sauté mode. Add one tablespoon of the oil and heat until hot. Add the peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, until the peppercorns and cloves swell and are fragrant. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Grind until smooth, then add the garlic, ginger, and chili powder. Grind again, then transfer to a small bowl and stir in the vinegar. Set aside.

Heat the remaining three tablespoons of oil in the slow cooker. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until brown and caramelized. Add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Add the spice paste, salt, and sugar. Stir well, then add the pork. Coat the pork with the paste then add just enough water to cover the meat. Stir well, then cover and cook for three hours on high or five hours on low, or until the meat is completely tender and straining to hold its shape.

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