I love crock pot season, I like simple, and I like improvising and seeing how things turn out. Pork chops in a family pack were on sale for $1.99/lb when I stopped to pick up coffee at the Fresh & Easy the other day. I realized it would be good to cook something that would last me a few days, so I made a quick decision and grabbed a pack and made a dash through the aisles, cypherin' what to do with them. Here's what I came up with, a moderately substantial dish of pork that isn't particularly spicy and has a slightly south of the border character. It might be in the realm of enhanced Bachelor Chow. Well, if the shoe fits...

My crock pot is is one of the original Rival models, small by modern standards. It's 7" in diameter and 6" deep; 3 lbs. of meat and a couple of handfuls of veggies fills it to the the top. The ingredients listed below barely fit; I've learned to leave 1/4"-1/2" at the top to avoid spillovers. You may need to adjust the quantities and/or stacking instructions for a larger slow-cooker.

Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs. pork chops, 3/8" thick (about 12)
  • 9 yellow peppers, about 3" x 1.5" (not yellow bells)
  • 5 small red potatoes, appx. 1.5" spheres
  • 1 15 oz. can cooked white beans
  • 1 cup of Salsa Verde (I bought a jar of 'Fire Roasted Salsa Verde')
  • 2 tbsp. oil (I used peanut for neutral flavor)
  • Salt
  • Cumin, powdered
  • Garlic and Onion powders
Set the crock pot on high and put the oil in. Remove the pepper tops and seeds, cut into thirds top to bottom and cut the wedges in half crosswise, so you have roughly half dollar sized pieces. Slice the potatoes into 1/4" thick discs, 5 or so per potato. That's all there is to the prep!

Now Comes the Layering

Place pepper pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the warming crock pot, then a single layer of potato slices. Lay three pork chops on top of the potatoes, so all you see is meat. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of salt (I like kosher salt), a teaspoon of cumin, then a few dashes of onion and garlic powders. Spread a few spoons of the beans (with can liquid) on top and then about 1/3 of the salsa verde. Layer peppers, potatoes, pork chops, beans, salsa, and spices twice more, using up the non-pork ingredients (don't use up your spices!) then top with the remaining three pork chops. Press down hard when you put the pork layers in but be careful not to squirt salsa onto your shirt. Ahem.

Cooking

I had started the project at 2:00 in the afternoon and by 4:30 it was smelling good. I hadn't lifted the lid once. I was getting peckish. Sunday Night Football was on. I checked the top layer and found the pork chops on top were done, each still in one piece. The potatoes were cooked and the peppers were limp. What broth there was was thin (remember, the only liquid came from the can of beans and the salsa). I scooped a pork chop and some veggies and broth off the top and into a bowl, leaving the crock pot on high, and watched a few downs of the game.

The bowl's contents had cooled enough to really taste the flavors, so I tucked in. It was pretty darn tasty. The chile/salsa flavor was clear but didn't dominate, the potatoes had texture and tasted like potatoes and I could cut the pork chop into reasonable bites with my fork. I got absorbed in the game and completely forgot about the crock pot until about 7:30, for just over 5 hours total cooking time, on high.

I jumped up from the couch and yanked the crock pot's plug from the wall, fearing I'd created a tub of goo. I gave the contents a few stirs. The pork chops fell to pieces nicely and the potatoes (and the beans?) had transformed the broth to a thick gravy. I scooped out another bowl of the mixture and took it back to the couch to cool. Now the flavors of the yellow peppers and the beans had asserted themselves and the overall texture was perfect. It had a real stick-to-your-ribs character and the chunks of pork chop were all bite-size. There were still plenty of chunks of potato; most of the beans had disintegrated. I later put the remainder in a container in the refrigerator and enjoyed microwave-warmed bowls of the stuff for days.

Bones!

The only slight drawback was the bones from the pork chops. The big pieces were easy to fish out when transferring from crock pot to storage vessel but there were smaller bits lurking here and there, so that the first chew or two of a forkful merited a little caution - the saw-cut bone bits have sharp edges. Most bites were bone-free. Eating alone in the kitchen it's easy to just spit the bones and bits into the trash, but in civilized circumstances that might not be an option. Perhaps the thing to do would be to remove the pork chops at about the two-hour point and separate the meat from the bones before the little bits come loose. On returning the meat to the pot I'd give it all a good stir.

Next Time

Next time I think I'll use two cans of beans, maybe one white and one black. I'd definitely avoid using beans cooked with spices or flavorings. You might want to use onion slices instead of onion powder - I used powder to save volume (and prep) and because if you're home during the first couple of hours of crock pot cookage the onion vapors can be irritating to the eyes. If I'd had fresh garlic handy, I'd have whipped out the press. I had meant to add some bacon initially, but I forgot about that in the layering process and I'm doubtful about the additional flavor note anyway; might pull it back north of the border in a confusin' way.

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