It was the Crock-Pot, in the kitchen, with the red dish towel.

No, we aren’t playing a rousing game of culinary Clue, but if you were among the millions of people who tuned in to this week’s soul-crushing episode of NBC’s hit show, “This is Us,” you know exactly what I am talking about.

Admittedly, I have thrown a little angsty side-eye toward my own slow cooker this week, but we shouldn’t punish a pot for a television show’s plot turn.

After reading several (spoiler-filled) articles on CNN, NBC, and Vanity Fair, it seems like folks are having a hard time separating fact from fiction when it comes to the Crock Pot/”This is Us” connection. The truth is, Crock-Pots have been reliable and safe kitchen companions for busy homecooks since the early 1970’s.

So rather than vilify a small applicance for being the catalyst for a whole bunch of crying, I’d suggest putting your Crock Pot to use making something both comforting and delicious.

Just remember to unplug the darn thing when you’re done using it. Okay?

Comforting Crock Pot Carnitas

(Makes about 12 servings)

For the Pork:
1 5-pound pork shoulder roast
1 ½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 orange (unpeeled), cut into large chunks
2 limes (unpeeled), cut into chunks
10 garlic cloves, smashed
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 large sweet onion diced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
¼ Cup canola oil for frying.

For the Tacos:
Small corn tortillas, warmed
Orange segments
Diced red pepper
Sliced jalapeno
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sliced Scallion
Thinly sliced red onion tossed with orange juice and oregano
Crumbled queso fresco

Combine the salt, pepper, cumin and oregano in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the roast. Place the seasoned pork roast, fat side up, in a 6-8 quart slow cooker. Nestle the orange, lime, garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks around the roast. Sprinkle the onion over the roast. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-9 hours.

Carefully remove the roast from the pot. Remove the bone and discard any bay leaves, cinnamon sticks or citrus chunks from the roast. Shred the meat with two forks; it will already be falling apart. Toss the brown sugar with the meat. Strain the cooking liquid from the pot and skim the fat from the broth and discard.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry up to 75% of the shredded pork in the hot oil until crispy and brown, but still tender in the middle. Do not over crowd the pan; cook in batches as needed. Toss the crispy pork with the reserved pulled pork and moisten as desired with the de-fatted cooking liquid.

Serve the carnitas on the warmed tortillas garnished with the oranges, red pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, scallion, quick pickled onion and queso fresco. Leftover carnitas freeze well!

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