The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook could really use some shortening of their recipe titles.
I’ve mentioned that I love roasts and love the slow cooker, haven’t I? I was excited to try this recipe, with it’s jalapenos, chipotle peppers, orange juice, and sweet potato sauce.
I got up fairly early Saturday morning to start the prep. It didn’t exactly start well. The first task I set for myself was peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes. I grabbed the potato peeler in the drawer, a nice one from Oxo with a big grippy rubber handle. I started peeling the sweet potatoes and found I was really, really bad at it. The peel would only come off in little chunks, leaving trails of peel bits still attached. Justin wandered out of the bedroom and observed my failure and offered to take over. Thankfully, I handed over the potatoes and peeler. He started peeling over the trash can while I started in on chopping the onions. After about 30 seconds he stopped and said, “Ok. This peeler sucks.” Thank God, I thought, it’s not just me. I went looking for another peeler and found a really crappy looking one that came with a set of kitchen tools we got for our wedding. Apparently, the cheap crappy one did way better than the expensive one, because the peel started flying.
Next I needed to seed and chop jalapeno. The recipe calls for 3 jalapeno chiles, but Justin doesn’t like the flavor of jalapeno and I didn’t want the dish to be too spicy. Plus, this year I have a jalapeno plant on my porch, courtesy of one of J’s coworkers, and it had one nearly full-sized pepper ready to be used. So I harvested my first crop of the year and rather proudly carried my one smallish jalapeno into the kitchen. I carefully seeded and minced the pepper, then chopped three canned chipotles and set the plastic cutting board with these ingredients on top of the coffee maker, out of the way of the rest of my prep. Naturally, it was probably only two minutes before I reached up for a paper towel with which to blot the pork dry and knocked the cutting board down, throwing all of my precious jalapeno bits flying into the air. Not having any way to replace it, I carefully salvaged all the pieces that had landed on the counter. Unfortunately, the majority ended up on the floor, where the visible bits of cat food and cat hair told me the five second rule definitely did not apply to this situation. So I chopped a couple more chipotles to compensate for the lost jalapeno.
After all this, the cooking was quite uneventful. The final bit of prep was tying the roast, as instructed by the book. I didn’t really see a need for tying it, as the size was uniform, but I’m trying to follow the book as slavishly as possible, so I turned to the directed page to see the ATK method of roast tying, which turned out to but to tie it every 1 1/2 inches with separate 12″ strings. So I did. My first roast-tying went fairly well, after the first couple of strings discarded for being too short. Anyway, I browned the roast and then cook the onions and the little bit of jalapeno I had, added a can of diced tomatoes to deglaze and poured it all into the slow cooker with some organo, the chipotles, and orange zest. Finally, at a few minutes to noon, I turned on the slow cooker. The recipe called for 5-6 hours of cooking and I ended up pulling the roast about 5:30.
The roast rested while I made the accompanying cilantro sour cream: (chopped cilantro, sour cream, and lime juice) and used my stick blender to blend all the vegetables in the crock into a sauce. That is actually a lot easier said than done. I spent quite a while chasing down cubes of sweet potato with the blender and trying to trap them under the blades so they got pureed. Slippery little buggers. Finally, after an eternity of blending, I decided I had something more like a sauce than a pile of veggies. So the roast was sliced, drizzled with sauce, and served with the sour cream on the side.
I was a bit worried it would be too spicy, since I ended up putting in quite a bit of chipotle, but it wasn’t at all. There was just a bit of heat at the back of the sauce, with the smoky sweet potato up front. The pork was flavorful on its own, but a bit dry. I wondered if I didn’t rest it long enough or if it just couldn’t stand up to the long cooking. What really made the dish work, surprisingly to me, was the cilantro sour cream. I ended up cutting pieces of pork with the sweet potato sauce on one side and then dipping the opposite side in sour cream so that one side was warm and spicy and the other was cool and tangy and it was kinda awesome.
I had this dish as leftovers again on Sunday, and it didn’t taste nearly as good to me. I’m not sure why, but the pork was even drier and the sauce didn’t pop. So the rest of the pork is going to be sandwiches. Overall, I think this recipe could be improved by cooking it so the pork doesn’t dry out and the sauce maybe needed more orange flavor, since I didn’t get orange from it at all. But it was a really different and yummy way to eat pork loin.