TIME TO THROW DOWN ANOTHER RECIPE WITH OUR FRIENDS AT THE FIREFIGHTER THROWDOWN! THIS WEEK WE TAKE A RECIPE THAT WAS SUBMITTED AND POSTED ON OUR WEBSITE, AND TRY TO MAKE IT A LITTLE HEALTHIER WHILE KEEPING THE SAME FLAVORS OF THE DISH. THE CARNITAS RECIPE FROM FIREFIGHTER CASEY KEEFE IS A GREAT SLOW COOKER RECIPE THAT IS PERFECT FOR THE FIREHOUSE, BUT I WANTED TO TRY AND USE SOME INGREDIENTS THAT ARE A LITTLE BETTER FOR YOU BUT HAVE THE SAME GREAT FLAVOR.
I WAS ABLE TO FIND FRESH HAM IN THE SUPERMARKET. COMPARED TO PORK SHOULDER OR BUTT, IT IS MUCH LEANER, WITH AS MUCH AS 15 CALORIES LESS PER SERVING. BECAUSE IT IS LEANER, YOU MUST TRY TO NOT OVERCOOK IT EVEN THOUGH IT WILL BE IN THE SLOW COOKER WITH LIQUID.
ONE OF THE PRIMARY FLAVOR COMPONENTS OF THE ORIGINAL RECIPE IS DR. PEPPER SODA. DR. PEPPER CLAIMS TO HAVE 23 FLAVORS, ALTHOUGH MY SEARCH AS TO WHAT THOSE ARE CAME UP EMPTY EXCEPT FOR HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, HMMM SUPRISED? HOWEVER, THROUGH MY RESEARCH I WAS ABLE TO FIND SOME POINTS MADE BY VARIOUS SOURCES THAT ORANGE, VANILLA AND PEPPER ALL MAKE AN APPEARANCE IN THE "FORUMULA". WITH THIS BLURRED INFORMATION I SET OUT TO RECREATE THIS RECIPE WITHOUT USING DR. PEPPER....
1 4-5 LB. FRESH HAM, NOT BRINED OR SMOKED (If not available you can substitute pork butt or shoulder of the same weight)
2 ONIONS CHOPPED, 1 for the slow cooker and 1 for garnishing the pork
2 ANCHO CHILES* optional
2 TBS. CHIPOTLE PASTE, substitute 2 chopped chipotles in adobo sauce (found in a small can in most grocery stores)
1/2 C. ORANGE JUICE, not from concentrate
1/4 REAL MAPLE SYRUP
1 TBS. VANILLA EXTRACT
1 C. CHICKEN BROTH, 99% Fat Free
SMALL CAN OF FIRE ROASTED TOMATOES, will be used for the "salsa"
FRESH CILANTRO, for garnish
Take your favorite BBQ rub and rub it all over the ham. Let it sit as long as possible, overnight being the best.
Combine the orange juice, maple syrup, chipotle paste,vanilla, chicken broth and 2 tbs. of the bbq rub in a large bowl, whisk together.
Take one of the chopped onions and place on the bottom of the slow cooker with the dried ancho chiles*(optional). Place the ham on top of the onions. Pour the orange juice mixture along the sides of the ham, careful not to wash too much of the rub off the ham.
Set on low for 7 hours or 4 hours on high, turning the ham over halfway through.
Remove the ham and set aside to cool. While the ham is cooling, take the "juice" that is in the slow cooker and place it in a blender with the can of tomatoes. BE CAREFUL while doing this next step, blending hot liquid can result in a blender "explosion". What I do is cover the top of the blender with a towel and pulse a couple times, remove top and let the steam escape. Place the top back on, cover with a towel and continue to pulse the juice until smooth.
When the ham is cool enough to touch, remove the skin and as much fat as possible. Shred the meat and place back in the slow cooker with the about 1/2 of the pureed "juice". Continue to cook on low for about an hour. While this continues to cook, take the remaining 1/2 of the "juice" and put it in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Let this reduce to a thick salsa while the pork is continuing to cook.
Serve the pork over red beans and rice with avocado for a healthy alternative to corn tortillas. Top with the salsa, cilantro and chopped onions