Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slow-Cooker Pork Ramen, Ignorant American Style

Gentle reader, I do NOT love a rainy night. Not when it’s raining, like, buckets. (Although it is exciting when the storm drains on my street are clogged by litter and the street floods and I can legitimately say I live on waterfront property.)

But when life gives you rain, you make comfort food. So I perused a few slow-cooker pork ramen recipes online and then, as is my wont, ignored like 90% of their instructions and mashed up the rest according to my own whim.

I added to the slow cooker, in order from bottom to top:

  • 2 lbs. country style pork ribs, about 5 pieces (primarily boneless, but those meat-hacking hacks at the Key Food had left a bit of bone on a couple)
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade, I might add)
  • 2 TBSP Worcester sauce (this sounds ethnically out of place, but it is made with molasses and soy sauce, so not so much)
  • 1 TBSP cider vinegar (this sounds ethnically out of place, because I didn’t feel like springing for a whole bottle of Japanese rice wine vinegar)
  • About 5 dried pods of chile de arbol (this sounds ethnically out of place, but I happened to have some)
  • A packet of “roast chicken”-flavored seasoning from a Ramen noodle package (this sounds ethnically out of place, but … yeah, no, I got nothing. The recipes I saw online all said to omit this if you used package noodles, so I was determined to include them.)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 3.5-oz. package worth of oyster mushroom, cut into weird earlobe-like pieces
  • 3 ribs (no pun intended) of bok choi, white parts sliced into half-circles and green parts into strips

After leaving the slow cooker on high for about 5 1/2 hours, I removed the pork bones (online recipes called for shredding the meat, but I was feeling the hunks it had naturally split into) and tasted the broth. It was super spicy from the chiles, so I added another splash of Worcestershire sauce to balance out the flavor. Then I added:

  • The noodles from the aforementioned ramen package
  • 2 chopped scallions

I let this cook for 20 minutes, stirring a bit to break up the noodles (you’re not really supposed to open the slow-cooker lid while cooking, because it lets off a lot of heat, but this was like end-stage after the meat was done), then ladled it into bowls, and garnished with chopped cilantro.

OH MY GOD gentle reader, this was the best slow-cooker meal I’ve made yet, and one of my favorite meals in some time. If—no, when—I make it again, I will be a bit more conservative with that last splash of Worcestershire, and I might also use a sliced fresh jalapeno instead or the dried arbol, because why not just try that.

This was the nicest meal on a cold and rainy night. It was warming both in its heartiness and spiciness, and also it was literally quite warm. Other than the fatty bits of pork, which were pretty easy to pick out, it is also somewhat healthy, at least by my standards. All the broth and the veggies and the meat and the noodles came together in true comfort-food style, and had that medicinal-feeling quality of chicken soup (no doubt largely because of the chicken broth...oh, well, and the "roast chicken flavor" ramen seasoning.) I may or may not have slurped some of the remainder with a spoon straight from the slow cooker. You’ll never know for sure, gentle reader.

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