Nearly eight years ago, my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Hawaii, splitting the week between Lahaina and Hana on Maui. It was an amazing time — there were were, so young (barely 24! Actually, I was still 23), so carefree, giddily and newly married, with nothing on our agendas except to eat, drink, sleep, take in our beautiful surroundings and enjoy each other’s company. 😉 We sampled a nice variety of Hawaiian cuisine while we were there, and one of our favorite dishes was kalua pork. I’m sure that’s an extremely touristy thing to say, but, well, you can’t really go wrong with slow-roasted pork. (Plus, if made traditionally, it’s cooked in an underground oven! How cool is that?!)
For our first anniversary, Johnny surprised me by making a Dutch oven version of kalua pork, mixing up some fruity cocktails, setting a pineapple on our tiny two-person dining table and otherwise trying his best to bring a touch of Hawaii into our 700-square-foot NYC apartment (actually, that’s pretty big by Manhattan standards!). Suffice to say that I’ll always have a soft spot for kalua pork, but I actually haven’t had it since our first anniversary. A few days ago, when I was browsing Skinnytaste (one of my new favorite food blogs!) for dinner ideas, I came across her crock pot kalua pork recipe, and I decided to try it. The ingredient list is only three items long, and although it takes 16 hours to cook, the crock pot would do all the work. I figured there was nothing to lose.
Well, folks, I am here to report that this is, hands down, among the top five items I’ve ever cooked. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, and the truth is, I’ve met few foods I didn’t like, but by God, this.is.good. I followed the original recipe’s cue of serving it in lettuce leaves with some hoisin on top, and I also made some pineapple fried rice to go with it. But what I really wanted to do was just eat all three pounds of kalua pork by myself. (Don’t worry, I didn’t. I stuck with a 4-ounce serving size, which, by the way, is only 161 calories. Yes, it’s true. It’s figure-friendly and supremely scrumptious.) Until I can install an underground oven in my own kitchen, I’ll be turning to this recipe time and again.
One last thing before the recipe: This dish is so versatile. You can have it with rice, you can have it in a lettuce wrap, you can make sandwiches with it (imagine it on Hawaiian rolls … mmm!), you could even fill tacos with it (bit of a fusion thing going on!). I think this would make an excellent main dish for your Easter buffet — it’s a nice alternative to the usual ham. Just set out some rolls, some Asian-inspired sides, a couple of egg dishes, and you’re set. (Yes, I’m already obsessed with Easter-related food!) If you have leftovers, they’ll store well in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer, sealed well in a freezer bag, for a longer period of time. OK, enough chatting; let’s get on with it!
Makes 8 4-oz servings
- 3 pound pork shoulder roast, all fat trimmed off
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (found near the bbq sauces in the grocery store)
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- Lettuce leaves and hoisin sauce for serving (optional)
Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, trim the fat off of the shoulder roast. There was a 1/4-inch layer on mine, but it was easy to remove. You don’t have to be obsessive about it — there’s bound to be some left; you can get rid of it easily during the shredding step.
Once the fat is trimmed, stab the roast all over with the tip of a knife. (This was strangely satisfying. ;)) Set the roast in the slow cooker, then rub the roast with the salt. Pour the liquid smoke slowly over the roast. Then, put the lid on the slow cooker, and set it to cook on low for 16 hours. If your slow cooker doesn’t go up to 16 hours, just set it for eight hours (or overnight), then set it for the remainder of the time in the morning. Try not to drool as the smell of delicious roast pork fills your house.
When the pork is done, transfer it onto a platter.
Using two forks, shred the pork. Believe me, after 16 hours, it won’t take long to shred! If necessary, moisten the pork with some of the cooking liquid (I used maybe 3 tablespoons; the meat was already very moist).
And there you have it! Easy-peasy kalua pork, ready to serve with whatever sides you like. I do recommend wrapping it in butter lettuce leaves (romaine would work well, too) with just a smidge of hoisin sauce — delish!