So I got my niece Emmi a record player for Christmas. (This is exam week for her, so I’m trusting she’s studying rather than reading this.) I’ve been having a blast going to old record stores, searching for her vinyl starter pack (more on that later), and it’s put me in a very retro state of mind. (Even more so than usual.) I started thinking about what other old school gadgets I could introduce her to, and the slow cooker (a.k.a. crock pot) immediately popped into my head. Any excuse to make my Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, right? I think she would love the three Mexican variations – nachos, Crock-os and a Mexican salad – I got out of one tenderloin.
Get to Know Your Slow Cooker
First, a little about the slow cooker, or Crock Pot®, as you might know them. (Crock Pot is the trademarked brand name. Generically, they’re slow cookers.) Maybe your mom or grandma had one for her Sunday supper pot roasts. I can remember Mom leaving one going while we went to church and the heavenly smells of slow simmered beef that greeted us when we got home had me counting my blessings with far more fervor than anything I heard in that day’s sermon. Pinterest brought slow cookers back in vogue, and it’s easy to see why. Effortless cooking? Fool-proof perfection? Sign me up.
Let’s Talk Tenderloin
Like flank steak, the pork tenderloin is a versatile, budget-friendly cut of meat that every cook should have in her repertoire. It’s lean and easily adapted to your favorite dishes. When seasoned liberally, its bold flavors mean you can make meat the supporting player in your dish, rather than the star of the show, thus stretching your budget and your leftovers. Cooking it in the slow cooker is an absolute no-brainer. You could just add some bottled barbecue sauce and cook, but I’ve got some better ideas.
My No-recipe Recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin
Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and put in your tenderloin. Season with your favorite Mexican spices. I used kosher salt, ground cumin, ancho chili powder, garlic powder and 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo. (Chipotle peppers in adobo are very spicy, so adjust to taste.) Lock down your lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours or until the internal temperature is 145-160 degrees. NO PEEKING. It should shred easily with a fork.
Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin Three Ways:
Now that your home smells delicious and your dog is looking at you with pleading eyes, you have a pile of rich, juicy slow simmered pork to work your magic on. I used mine to make three dishes:
Spicy Pork Nachos:
My friend Jonathan and I were inspired by Tanya’s search for Birmingham’s Best Nachos. In a cast iron skillet (another old school favorite), we topped chips with Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, Amy’s Vegetarian Refried Black Beans, jalapenos, red peppers, and shredded cheddar. It went into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or till everything was melty and bubbling, then we topped the whole concoction with cilantro, sour cream, guac, and salsa.
My boyfriend David prefers tacos to nachos, so he piled the same ingredients into a flour tortilla. I did the same thing the next day with a romaine lettuce wrapper.
Spicy Mexican Salad:
For an even healthier variation, think of these as upside down nachos. I start with a big ol’ pile of spinach, cucumbers, red peppers, black beans, jalapenos, avocado and cheddar, then top it with reheated pork and sour cream. I “dress” the whole thing with salsa and use a few chips as “croutons.”
Hurray for leftovers and no food waste!
So are you ready to try Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin? Or slow cooker anything? What’s your favorite way to cook pork?