Sunday, January 3, 2010

Maple sage pork roast

It's no mystery that I love my slow cooker...a lot.  The way things have been going around my house lately —what with snowmageddon before Christmas, all of us being in varying stages of some respiratory illness or another, and the challenges of keeping up with my child who doesn't stop until he passes out in bed at night—you better believe my slow cooker is my new BFF.  Sorry, Red, I still love you but you don't give me the warm fuzzies the way my slow cooker can.

What? Oh, am I freaking you all out a bit with my appliance love? Sorry.

Since I was all set to do my pulled pork recipe last week but didn't, I needed a plan to use my yummy pork shoulder roast.  As the temperatures dropped over the last few days, I found something too irresistible to pass up.  How could you not love something which includes a succulent roast, winter squash and maple syrup?

The original recipe comes from one of those publications one nearly always sees in line at the grocery store.  This one's a Betty Crocker mini-magazine of slow cooker meals dating all the way back to 2006.  Yes, I saved the magazine all these years because I'm apparently too stupid to realize that Al Gore gave me this nifty tool called the internet.  You, my friends, can find the original recipe here.

With all the aforementioned hindrances to leisurely and organized cooking in my household of late, I didn't have all the ingredients on hand.  I knew I couldn't use corn starch because of a food sensitivity and I don't use bouillon granules or cubes (I can't handle the msg and nitrates that are usually in those things so I avoid 'em like the plague).  So I did what any self-respecting cook would do— I made it up as I went along.

I have to say, it turned out really delicious.  Even my finicky eater who's just learning to chew meat has been enjoying the leftovers!  Now that I think of it, that's not a rousing endorsement as he'll eat pretty much everything. Hmmm...

My husband enjoyed this so much he's asked me to make it again with a slight change which I'll share at the end of this post.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

2- to 3-lb boneless pork shoulder roast
4 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground sage (I didn't have leaves on hand)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups baby-cut carrots
2 small onions, cut into wedges
3 tablespoons xanthan gum
1/2 cup water

If the pork roast comes in netting or string, remove that and put the roast in the bottom of the cooker.
In a small bowl, mix the syrup, beef broth, garlic and sage.  Pour the mixture over the pork.
Arrange the carrots, onions, and squash around the pork roast. 

Do not put the vegetables on top of the roast or they won't cook thoroughly. (This is a great tip if you are making, say, beef stew and don't want your vegetables to be mushy.)
Cover; cook on HIGH heat  setting for 4 hours. (NB: original recipe says 8-9 hours on LOW)
Remove the pork and vegetables from the cooker and cover them to keep them warm.  Now would be a great time to slice the roast and put it on a platter or in a casserole with the vegetables arranged oh-so-artfully around it like I did.  (Wow, I typed that with a straight face; lightning is about to strike me.) 

Pour the juices from the cooker into either a sauce pan or a large microwavable measuring cup.
Mix the xanthan gum and water until smooth. Add it to the juices in the cup or pan, Heat and stir until it thickens into a nice glaze.  Spoon the maple glaze over the pork and veggies.
If you plan your menu ahead of time, you definitely should consider adding these yummy side dishes to the meal.  Homemade biscuits (they're easy, I swear!), superb applesauce and maybe even some roasted brussels sprouts.  And, voila, dinner is served!

While I think this dish is absolutely yummy, both my husband and I tend to like a bit more depth and complexity; we like to play "What's in this?" sometimes. (Yeah, we're a little quirky that way; what can I say?)  We discussed several recipe modifications but the one which intrigues us the most —which I will make tomorrow— is to substitute garam masala for the sage for a flavorful Indian-style dish. I may add some chopped dates and serve it with naan bread. 
What are some of the ways you get adventurous when you cook?


  1. That sounds delicious! My husband and I play that game too, and garam masala is a favorite with us. Now if I could only get my kids to eat this.

    I like your website. Do you guys have any suggestions on helping seriously picky eaters try new foods? Any books on the subject, perhaps? My son doesn't eat meat unless it is in nugget form and he is low in iron, so I would like to change this....

  2. Patty, thanks for stopping by; I'm so glad you enjoy our site.

    I've spent, literally, years, helping my son learn to eat. He had a feeding tube for a long time. It's still a work in progress so I can't say I've got it down to a science, but I'm happy to help if I can.

    Why don't you email me and we can go from there. niksmother at gmail dot com.

    Maybe we need to do a post or two about feeding issues for our children? Is that something that other readers might be interested in? Or, if not on this site then perhaps at my own blog.