by Judy Kim
SLOW COOKER BANH MI
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Until recently I was not sold on a slow cooker, in fact I borrowed a slow cooker from my friend Alex a few months ago because I didn't even own one. But holy hell, I am a convert. Hallelujah! It magically turns most any meat into a state of undeniable tenderness with close to zero effort. When I recently joined Delish.com [a division of Hearst Magazines dedicated to cover their food content online] to write the column "Insanely Easy Weeknight Dinners" it was clear that I needed to keep feeding their audience with the slow cooker recipes they love. I embraced the challenge and created my favorite slow cooker recipe to date, a Slow Cooker Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich.
I'm still surprised I made this sandwich , one that I never dreamt I'd make at home, considering it seemed complicated and since I live 2 blocks from an amazing Banh Mi joint, Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli in the NoLita neighborhood of NYC. The place sounds so generic, but for about $5 you will get the most delicious and enormous sandwich. This is a simplified version, there is no traditional pâté, but this sandwich packs a punch. One of the key ingredients is the pickled slaw. I'm pretty sure I discovered this shortcut pickling trick from my friend Jules, also know as @Julesfood on Instagram. Ever since Marukan seasoned vinegar has become a critical pantry item. It's basically the equivalent of simmering water, vinegar, sugar and salt to create a pickling agent without the cooking or cooling step. I was hesitant initially because I assumed there must be a lot of extra ingredients, but the label lists 3: rice vinegar, sugar and salt. I stopped making pickling liquids from that day forward and now I enjoy endless pickles in my fridge at all times: jalapenos, zucchini rounds or spears, cucumbers, radishes, carrots etc. As an extra bonus, it will create a quick pickle in about 5 minutes if you're in a pinch.
I want to mention that the awesome and generous opportunity to work with Delish was passed to me by my amazing friend Anna Watson Carl @annawatsoncarl. She is fearless and full of extraordinary talent, not limited to but include her roles as a food writer, food blogger and cookbook author of The Yellow Table. Doing my best to make you proud. Thank you Anna!
3 - 4 pounds pork shoulder
Freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, cut into quarters
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon sriracha
4 baguettes - cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, including the stems
1/4 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
Trim the pork shoulder of excess fat but don't remove too much. The fat is helpful during the slow cooker process to help retain moisture, so keep about a 1/4-inch layer of fat on the outside. Cut the pork into large chunks about 4 or 5-inches that will be more manageable to fit it in the pan for searing and the slow cooker pot. Blot each piece with a paper towel to remove all moisture and then season generously with salt and pepper.
In a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil. (I like that this oil is flavorless and has a moderately high smoke point.) When oil is hot but not smoking, brown the meat well on all sides. Best to sear the meat in batches to prevent steaming. Add more oil if needed. Transfer meat to the slow cooker after each batch.
In the bowl of a slow cooker add the onions, 2 chopped jalapeños, sugar, white vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and 1 cup of water. Cook on low for 9 hours.
Meanwhile, in a large glass jar combine 1 cup Marukan seasoned rice vinegar with carrots and cabbage. This is a prepared pickling liquid that doesn't require cooking over a stovetop. In a small jar combine mayonnaise and Sriracha. Refrigerate both jars while pork is braising.
After 9 hours, transfer the pork to a cutting board and remove any excess fat. Skim the fat from the braising liquid and strain into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer on low until reduced approximately by half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
Shred the pork using 2 forks and mix in a bowl with 1 cup of the reduced cooking liquid. Spread a thin layer of Sriracha mayo on the sides of each baguette. Top with shredded pork, cilantro, sliced jalapeños, cucumbers and pickled slaw.
NOTE: If you can't find seasoned vinegar, here is a quick non stovetop pickling solution: combine 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt in a large glass jar. Shake well to combine and add carrots and cabbage.