It was all I could do not to title this one "Nice Heiny." Why, you ask? Because I cooked pork in Heineken. Read on...
This week, my dear friend Kent came over - with a bottle of Smoking Loon Merlot in tow - before he went to the Improv Olympics show. I call the dish I made:
HERB-ROASTED PORK WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER PESTO OVER RIGATONI.
FEARLESS FACTOR: I'd say medium-fearless. As faithful readers know, this is my second blog meal using my trusty orange CrockPot, so I was confident that the meat would be good. Even the Heineken wasn't too crazy - I've boiled many a bratwurst in beer before grilling it, always with great results. The pesto was the biggest leap of faith - I had never made any kind of pesto, let alone my own red-pepper-sun-dried-tomato version. And, since I royally destroyed last post's asparagus, I made it again this time with much better results. No mushy veggies!
One 5-lb. pork shoulder roast (about $1 per pound - very economical)
1 medium onion
5 garlic cloves
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
2 bottles Heineken or other lager
2 jars roasted red peppers
1 large jar julienned sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, undrained
2 (1/2 c.) bags pine nuts
1 c. pork broth from CrockPot
1 large bunch basil
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
2 bunches fresh asparagus
2 small or 1 large zucchini
salt and pepper
Dinner was at 7 PM, so at about 11 AM, I put the pork (5 lb. of pork shoulder) in the Crockpot. It needs about 8 hours on LO or 4 hours on HI. Pour the beer around the pork - it should come to the top but not completely cover it. Slice an onion and mince about 4-5 cloves of garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and dried oregano and dried basil, as well as some pepper (no salt yet). Cover and cook on LO for about 7-8 hours.
In a blender (doing one half at a time, the repeating for the second half of the ingredients so as not to overload the blender), add the roasted red peppers, the sun-dried tomatoes with all the oil, the pine nuts, fresh basil, parsley, and about 1 c. of the pork roasting broth from the Crockpot. Blend on high until the ingredients start to break down. Open the blender and stir around the ingredients, scraping the bottom of the blender. Add a little salt and pepper. Continue to blend until the mixture is mostly smooth, with some small pieces of pine nuts still visible. Transfer to a container until you're ready to warm it.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tough ends off the asparagus. Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut into pieces lengthwise. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil, tossing to coat. Bake for about 10 minutes.
Remove the pork from the broth and allow to cool enough to touch. Remove the meat from the bones, discarding any excess fat (there will be a lot of fat to remove - pork shoulder is a tough, fatty cut of meat, which is why it needs to be slow-roasted for hours). My 5-lb. roast yielded about 2 1/2 cups of torn meat). Tear into small pieces. Keep warm.
This is how much meat a 5-lb. roast yielded:
Boil salted water and cook pasta according to package directions.
In a large skillet, combine the pesto and the pork, and heat on low until hot. Don't let it bubble heavily - you don't want it to evaporate/ reduce.
Spoon the pesto and pork over the rigatoni and serve the asparagus and zucchini on the side. Top with a little grated parmesan cheese if you want.
THE JUDGES' VERDICTS:
KENT: I don't think I've ever had pork with pasta before. It's interesting. It's really good. The vegetables are perfect, I love asparagus.
JESS: This is really good. I'm really impressed with the sauce. The only bad thing is it got a little cold before we got to eat it. But the meat was perfect. The zucchini could've used a little more seasoning, but the asparagus was awesome.
ROSS: This is awesome. Maybe top 5 you've ever cooked. Top 10, maybe. Well, maybe Top 15. You cook a lot of stuff.
MY VOTE ON MY DISH: Hmmm...I'd say 8.5 stars. Aside from the bad timing on my part (the pasta sat a little while and got a bit sticky, and nothing was piping hot), everything came out great. The pork was tender and flavorful, and the pesto was great. It somehow tasted creamy without containing any cream. And the veggies were crisp and yummy.
NOTES: Next time, I would just wait longer to cook the pasta, so it didn't get sticky and too soft, and I would heat the sauce for a little longer so it stayed nice and hot. This isn't a dish I'd cook a lot, not only because the CrockPot is time-consuming, but because pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat. Even though I trimmed off most of the fat, there is fat that's just integral to the meat that can't really be extracted from the meat. In small portions, it's not too terrible, but as I rule I try to keep pork to a minimum (and red meat, too, for that matter). If I made this dish again, I would substitute whole wheat pasta, and I would make it vegetarian - I might incorporate the zucchini and asparagus into the sauce in lieu of meat.
We had a great night. Rather than watch Desperate Housewives and veg, we desperately ate some veggies in our house. The wine was great, too. I usually don't like Merlot, but the Smoking Loon was really good.
Thanks for reading, guys!