She Braise

I used to not think of myself as a performance oriented person. I used to think of myself as having a laid back nature and not a controlling type. Enter cooking (and children) and I morph into neither an “alpha” nor a “beta,” but a genuine brute.

Something marvelous and scary happened when I attended The Culinary Institute of America. While gaining expertise and exciting new skills in my chosen field of culinary arts, I also discovered an inner “control freak” nature. It comes out of hiding when approval is tempting me.

Every time I make a meal, the evaluation tape starts playing and I struggle, often unknowingly. I start raising the stakes with myself on even the most basic homemade meal. The other night, my husband and I were on our way to a school fundraiser event so I thought making pizzas from tortillas would be easy for the Spanish-speaking babysitter to oversee. In my broken Spanish and charades, I described the cooking process of needing to have a very hot sheet pan and olive oil to create a crispy crust. I mustered, “El oven necesita MUCHA caliente!”  I waved my arms around extra wildly while speaking, convinced it would further clarify my intentions. Oh, but I was mistaken.

As we raced out the door for our adult evening, already late and stressed, the soggy-looking, light-colored crusts my children were happily eating caught my eye. I halted. My eyes widened. Then I marched over to the oven to inspect the temperature. What?  Only 375 degrees? How could this “disaster” have ensued under my careful instructions? I barked in despair to my sitter, the gentlest of souls, “El pizza tiene no crisp! No crisp! Donde esta!” Then she looked at me quizzically and if I had to guess her thoughts, the caption above her would have read, “This lady is LOCA with a capital L!”

Needless to say, it was not a good way to leave the house. I had crossed the line of caring too much about food and all I could think about was John 6:27…”Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

My drive for self-approval in this case, came spilling out and even though by the end of the evening I had sought and received forgiveness, the tension remained. I was reminded of Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  I mused, “Am I beyond cure?”  I know I have an eternal cure through God’s provision of Jesus going to the cross and rising from the dead, but is this same good news relevant toward daily struggles such as my pull to perfectionism and kitchen control?

Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” If we are then blessed to be a blessing, and I am freed to live from His approval, not for His approval, it applies to cooking too.

Still a work in progress, I find that when I stop and braise in God’s low and slow bubbling broth of eternal and daily approval, made possible in Christ, my tight and wound up heart begins to melt and soften, much like what happens in a crock-pot.

As a trained chef, I love to braise. Finding ways to use my crock-pot not only simplifies life, but also allows me to watch the physical transformation of a tough, sinewy cut of meat into a rich, succulent cut of long-cooked meat. And that is what the Great Chef is doing in us: turning “She Braise” to “She Praise.”

In this season of Fiesta, I have included a delicious and festive recipe for braised pork tacos, perfect for easy entertaining. May we savor His flavors!

Pork Tacos for a Crowd

  • 1 large pork shoulder, bone in
  • 1 packet of Memphis BBQ spice rub (I use “BBQ Seasoning” from Colorado Spice)
  • 1 large onion, chopped or sliced
  •  2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle of chipotle raspberry sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 can of beer
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Dump all ingredients into your crockpot, roll around, and cook until fork tender – 4 hours minimum. Let cool slightly, skim off layer of fat if possible, and shred meat. Serve with warm, corn tortillas and mango salsa – recipe included here. I usually like to add other toppings as well, like avocado and sour cream, etc.  Have fun!

Serves Approximately 8

Mango Salsa

  • ripe mangoes, diced
  • red onion, finely chopped (more or less according to taste – I think less is better
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • optional: fresh jalapeños, seeded (or not) and finely diced

Mix. Taste. Adjust with salt and lime and cilantro, onion, etc. Serve with tacos, fish, chicken, etc.

More “Cheffy” version:

1.  Preheat oven to 300 or 325.  Pat dry a large pork shoulder, bone in, and sprinkle with salt.  Place a large cast iron or enameled pot on medium high heat and when very hot, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and sear the large pork shoulder, bone in, on both sides – 5 min per side or until brown.  Remove and set aside.  Pour off excess fat from pot.

2.  Add 1 onion (chopped or thinly sliced) and a couple of cloves of minced garlic to the pot.  Stir around.

***Note for crockpot: Skip step 3. Complete Step 4 and 5, and then add beer to the pot before closing the lid.  (Use a little less beer though in this version)

3.  Then pour 1 can of beer (still over med high heat and scrape up all the goodness off the bottom from your previous browning and let it reduce just a bit.

4.  In the meantime, rub pork with spice mixture (use all if you have a huge cut) from Central Market packet entitled, “BBQ” in meat section.  (Could also round up a Memphis BBQ spice mix)

5.  Place meat back into pot. Cover with bottle of raspberry chipotle glaze and place lid on to seal.

6.  Cut off burner and cook meat in the oven…”low and slow,” until fork tender -maybe 2-3 or 4 hours, depending on cooking vessel.  If cooking in a cast iron pot with enamel coating, check liquid levels while cooking – might need to replenish.  Shred pork while warm and serve with warm, corn tortillas and mango salsa – recipe included here.  I usually like to add other toppings as well, like avocado and sour cream, etc.  Have fun!

~Lauren
I contributed this recipe and post recently to help kick off an awesome ministry called ShePraise. Lori Coiner, a friend of mine, incorporates music to facilitate prayer and Scripture memory for women in the midst of busy lives. I hope you will check it out!