Chinese Pork & Vegetable Hot Pot
The richly flavored red braises characteristic of Chinese cooking make warming winter meals that can be adapted to a slow cooker. Typically, seasonings of anise, cinnamon and ginger distinguish these dishes. Pork shoulder becomes meltingly tender during the slow braise. Serve over noodles or brown rice, with stir-fried napa cabbage.
Ingredient Notes: Sherry is a type of fortified wine originally from southern Spain. Don't use the “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets--it can be surprisingly high in sodium. Instead, purchase medium or dry sherry that's sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store.
Star anise (named for its star-shaped pods) lends a distinctive licorice-like flavor to numerous Asian dishes. The pods come from a small evergreen tree that is native to China. Look for star anise in the bulk spice sections of natural-foods stores, in Asian markets or online at penzeys.com.
Sesame seeds can be purchased already toasted. If you can't find them, toast your own in a small dry skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
For easy cleanup, try a slow-cooker liner. These heat-resistant, disposable liners fit neatly inside the insert and help prevent food from sticking to the bottom and sides of your slow cooker.
People with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should use soy sauces that are labeled "gluten-free," as soy sauce may contain wheat or other gluten-containing sweeteners and flavors.
1 1/2 vegetable, 3 1/2 medium fat meat