I want to try something new around here. I pride myself on being a graduate of the Good Eats Culinary Academy (if you don’t get the joke, I mean I’ve seen every episode of Good Eatsby Alton Brown multiple times each) and a fairly decent cook, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes. I mean it seems like a good fit because, aside from alcohol, what tavern doesn’t have a menu full of special recipes unique to them? So I present to you the first (well, second if you count my Mulled Wine recipe) Gamer’s Tavern Recipe!
The first is one that my D&D group back in Austin devoured every time I made it, slow cooked pork. It’s kind of a riff on a Mexican dish called carnitas and on pulled pork. This recipe requires a slow cooker or a cast iron dutch oven. The stick blender and/or potato masher are optional. The base recipe is for 1 lb of pork, which feeds about 4 people. It’s an easy recipe to scale up if you need to, and you’ll probably need to because it’s amazingly good. I know my old group would go through 3 lbs of it a night and we only had 6 players.
- 1 lb pork shoulder, boneless trimmed of fat cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/8c Chili powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- Cayenne pepper to taste (I usually use 1 tbsp per pound of pork, but I’m Cajun and like things spicy)
- Water (filtered or bottled, somewhere around a pint)
Bring the water to a boil and dump in all the seasonings. Stir or whisk to make sure they’re thoroughly combined and there’s no clumps.
Add pork to the slow cooker or dutch oven. Pour water on top (you want the water to just barely cover the pork, so feel free to add a bit more if you need to). If using a slow cooker, set to Low for 8 hours. If using a dutch oven, place on the lowest heat possible on your stove for 4-6 hours or in a 250 degree oven for 6 hours.
The pork’s done when it starts to fall apart when you even look at it funny. Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot so you can shred it with a pair of forks, mash it up with a potato masher, take a stick blender to it to cut it even finer, depending on how I’m serving it. If it starts to dry out, add some of the cooking liquid back in.
Serve on warm flour or corn tortillas with the options of shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, jalapenos, or any other traditional taco-ish toppings. If you want something more authentic, sear the cooked pork in a cast iron skillet on high heat for a minute or two before serving. If you took your stick blender to it, you can also turn it into an amazing dip for tortilla chips by adding cheese sauce to the pork and stirring it all together. How do I make cheese sauce other than a package of Velveeta? Easy!
I have a special recipe I normally use for cheese sauce, but I’ll save that for a future post. Until then, my “I’m too lazy to make a roux” version is to bring about 1/2c of half and half, milk, or heavy cream just barely to a boil, turn the heat way down, then add about 1/2 tsp of lemon juice, white wine, or white wine vinegar (the acid will denature some of the proteins in the cheese and keep your sauce from getting stringy). I then add shredded cheese a handful at a time, stirring it until it’s completely melted before adding in the next batch. Do not let it get to a boil or your sauce will be grainy! A half cup of dairy will usually be good enough to melt about a pound of cheese in. You’ll want to use half as much cheese sauce as you do pork for the dip, but feel free to play around with the ratio. Oh, and if you want to make it taste even more like queso, add a pinch of onion powder to the dairy.
If you try out the recipe, leave a comment to let me know how it worked out for you. I’ll also be happy to answer any questions you have in the comments as well.