Anatomy of a Weeknight Dinner, Thursday May 5.
7:00 am Shower, get dressed, dig yesterday’s still-packed lunch bags out of backpacks even though Allowance Rules decree the removal of lunch bags from backpacks by owners of said lunch bags.
8:00 am Before leaving for school drop-off, remove pork loin from freezer and add to bowl of water for thawing.
8:15 am At school. Saying goodbye to girls when iPhone reminder pops up: Dermatologist Appointment for Kid 1 in half hour. Exactly half hour away. Kid 1 gets back in car, Mom rearranges morning.
10:50 am Back home, catch glimpse of gochujang tub in fridge, purchased along with half Korean Fermented Paste aisle at H-Mart, for recipe testing assignment. Scratch head. Check watch. Train in 30 minutes.
10:52 Brown loin in a Dutch Oven, then add to slow cooker along with a witches brew mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and that gochujang. Turn on 8-hour setting. Cross fingers. Hope for best.
11:20 Catch Train.
3:30 Meeting over. Thoughts immediately turn to dinner. What to do with that pork that requires no extracurricular shopping? Remember corn tortillas in freezer. Korean tacos! Vinegary slaw a need, not a want. Walk through Grand Central market and pick up tiny head of Napa cabbage. Text Kid 1: Please flip pork loin in slow cooker.
5:00 Walk into house. Find Kid 1 making snack: Cheese quesadillas. Thereby depleting 1/3 of corn tortilla supply.
6:00 Drop off Kid 2 at soccer practice.
6:30 Make slaw. Make rice. Heat what remains of tortillas. Break apart pork.
7:45 Everyone home: Family Dinner.
Key is not to have too much liquid in the slow cooker.
Korean Pork Tacos with Slaw
Using a pork shoulder here instead of a loin is definitely going to work, but it’s also definitely going to be on the fattier side. I prefer to use a lean cut — in the slow cooker, after 6 to 8 hours, the pork breaks apart just fine. Just be sure not to use too much liquid. It should only come about one inch up on the pork. Also: If spicy, funky gochujang is a page-turner for you — though it shouldn’t be! — use Sriracha instead.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 1/2 to 3-pound pork loin, salted and peppered
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed to maintain liquid level
1-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons gochujang (fermented hot pepper paste found at H Mart or any Asian grocer; or Sriracha)
8 corn tortillas (or 4 cups cooked sushi rice, salted)
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts only), chopped
handful cilantro or mint (chopped), or both
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
squeeze of fresh lime juice
pinch brown sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
Add oil to a large Dutch Oven set over medium-high heat. Brown pork loin on all sides and transfer to slow cooker. Add remaining pork ingredients to the slow cooker (make sure the liquid does not come up more than an inch or so) and set on 6- or 8-hour setting, flipping every few hours if possible. Before you serve, break it apart with two forks. It should look like the photo above.
While the pork cooks, add all slaw ingredients to a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, then toss with the slaw.
Warm tortillas in a cast iron skillet 30 seconds a side (or cook them over an open flame on your stovetop, which is how I like to do it these days) and top with pork and dressed slaw. Alternatively, serve pork and slaw on top of sushi rice for pork rice bowls.