For a guilt-free taco night, top your Slow Cooker Lime Pork Tacos with fresh veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Healthy Cooking: Slow-cooked pork tacos are an easy weeknight meal

I love Taco Tuesday. Also, Taco Monday, Taco Sunday, and all the other Taco Days in between.

Tacos are inexpensive, infinitely customizable, and appeal to the pickiest eater at the table. Tacos also fit into a healthy diet: Simply skip the full-fat dairy and top your tacos with veggies like diced avocados, chopped cabbage and fresh pico de gallo. As for the filling, I’m a fan of pulled pork, which delivers a whopping 30 grams of protein per taco and is easy to make in the slow cooker. As an added bonus, this recipe requires almost no prep work, which means Taco Night is the solution to Crazy Busy Night, too.

Start with a 4-pound, bone-in pork butt, which sometimes goes by its alliterative nickname, the Boston butt. (Fun fact: The butt cut isn’t actually from the back end of the hog. That would be the ham.) The butt is on the upper shoulder, and is revered for its tasty marbling. In a pinch, you can use a pork shoulder, also known as a picnic roast, which comes from the leg. The pork shoulder has no bone, and is just a tad tougher. But both cuts will shred beautifully when braised low and slow.

If your roast has a thick fat cap on top, trim it away with a sharp knife. Leave the bone in; the bone helps retain moisture while the meat simmers during its cooking odyssey. Place the roast on a bed of onions in the slow cooker. The onions act like a roasting rack, lifting the meat off the bottom of the cooker. Even better, the onions release water as they cook, which also helps keep the pork juicy. In fact, there’s no need to add any liquid beyond a splash of lime juice for bright, citrusy flavor. Throw some seasonings on top, cover with the lid, set the temperature to low, and walk away for the next eight hours. Before serving, just shred the pork with two forks, discarding the bone and any large chunks of fat.

With some slow-cooker recipes, you can crank up the heat to high and cook for less time. This is not one of those recipes. You need every minute to make the pork tender. If the eight-hour cook time doesn’t work with your schedule, consider making it overnight the evening before. You’ll wake up to a kitchen that smells amazing. Even better, letting your shredded pork marinate in its juices (in the refrigerator) will infuse it with even more flavor.

If there’s any downside to this easy recipe, it’s that all of the moisture can make your tacos a little drippy. Fortunately, if you have a few minutes to spare before serving, you can crisp up the outside of the shredded pieces. Heat a dry cast-iron skillet until it’s good and hot. Place the meat (no oil necessary) in the skillet and cook two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, you can use a trick from the carnitas playbook and spread the shredded meat in a single layer on a heavy, aluminum foil-lined pan. Stick it under the broiler until the ends are browned, about five minutes. Then fill your tortillas, top with your favorite veggies, and contemplate if tomorrow is too soon for the next taco night.

For a guilt-free taco night, skip the dairy and top your tacos with fresh veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Photo: For the AJC

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