It took me more than an hour and no less than three attempts to make mashed potatoes, a first (and hopefully, a last) for me.
I dared to schedule a slow cooker dinner on a wild and stormy day, and amazingly was able to merrily use electricity all day to make the following Sunday dinner:
Cider Pork Roast with Apple-Thyme Gravy
1 boneless pork shoulder roast (about 3 1/2 lbs.), tied
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
1 teaspoon pepper
4 Gala apples, peeled, cored, and sliced; divided
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon flour
1. Sprinkle pork with 1/2 tsp. salt, then brown in oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, turning as needed, 10 minutes. Transfer pork and pan juices to a 5- to 6-qt. slow-cooker. Add remaining 1 tsp. salt, the cider, Calvados, 1 tbsp. thyme, the pepper, and 1 sliced apple. Cover and cook until meat is very tender, about 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low.
2. Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before pork is done, heat 2 tbsp. butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add remaining 3 apples and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and light golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; tent with foil.
3. Transfer roast from slow-cooker to a platter and tent with foil. Strain slow-cooker juices and skim fat; set aside. Melt remaining 1 tbsp. butter in frying pan. Add flour; cook, whisking often, until golden and bubbling. Slowly whisk in juices and 1 tsp. thyme; cook until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a gravy boat.
4. Slice pork, scatter with reserved apples, and drizzle with gravy. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve more gravy on the side.
I used the same pan I browned the pork in to sautee the apples and then to make the gravy (why waste the flavor?) and substituted regular brandy for Calvados.
Attempt One to make mashed potatoes came to an end when I smelled something burning. I knew I’d turned the slow cooker down to “keep warm”, so I lifted the lid on the potatoes only to discover that I had forgotten to add water.
I grabbed the pan, turned off the burner, and took the whole thing straight to the compost pile with the pan hissing in the rain.
Back in the house, I filled the burned pan with water and hoped for the best. I filled another pot with water before I even put the potatoes in it. Passing by to check on it progress sometime later, I lifted the pot lid only to discover that this time, I had forgotten to turn on the burner.
I am pleased to report that Take Three, with the three key ingredients of water AND potatoes AND fire was entirely successful.
I am going to be one scary old lady.
A YEAR AGO: A slightly more successful cooking venture, though not without its own adventures.