My brother lived in Waikiki for a few years, and I was lucky enough to get to visit him, AND to go to an ‘authentic Hawaiian luau celebration” with my family while we were there. I put that in quotes because who knows how authentic it really was – people from 200 years ago are probably looking down and laughing at us – but oh man, the food –pit-roasted pork, deliciously ripe pineapple, . . . oh, and I tried poi. I’m not going to tell you how to make poi, because some authentic things don’t really need to be revived.
But the pork! Now THAT is a tradition worth keeping up. Yum. If only you didn’t have to dig a pit in your backyard and keep a fire burning over it for 24 hours . . .
Enter the slow cooker. Pork shoulder, sea salt, and liquid smoke – that’s it. I used pork shoulder, which gets incredibly tender and delicious when it’s cooked slowly like this. 12-16 hours, to be (semi) exact. It’s definitely done after 12 hours, but 16 makes it even more tender.
It pulls apart beautifully, and it’s rich, smoky and fabulous. The first time I made it, I decided the best way to serve it was to cook up a batch of Hodgson Mill Spicy Quinoa & Brown Rice, to quick-pickle some carrots and daikon radish for a vinegary tang, and to roll it all up in the crunchy bok choi leaves I had gotten from the farmer’s market.
But you can make it simpler than that, and it’s still delicious. I made this for my family, and to suit everyone’s tastes (including the kids), we served it as a build-your-own salad bowl – salad greens, Quinoa & Brown Rice, pickled vegetables of your choice, and delicious smoky pork.
Lightly pickled sweet and tangy carrots and red onions next to the rich pork, tender quinoa & brown rice, and fresh greens make a complete meal on each forkful. Some may have indulged in seconds . . . or even thirds?
I think the kids (my niece and nephew) were fans. And so were all the grownups. I think it’s a great meal for just about any crowd, summer or winter, picnic or entertaining. For me, it's a little bit of Hawaiian hospitality on a plate.
Crockpot Hawaiian Luau Pork with Quinoa & Brown Rice
- 5-7 lbs. pork shoulder, fat trimmed
- 5-7 Tbsp. sea salt (1 Tbsp. per pound)
- 5-7 tsp. liquid smoke (1 tsp. per pound)
- 1 pkg Hodgson Mill Quinoa & Brown Rice - Spicy
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 2-3 cups bok choy or 3-4 cups salad greens, for serving
Place prepared pork shoulder in large crock pot, sprinkle with salt and liquid smoke. Cook on low for 12-16 hours. It is helpful, halfway to three-quarters of the way through cooking, to remove and discard about half of the liquid and fat, so that the level is no more than one-third to halfway up the sides of the pork shoulder. To serve, pull apart the pork, remove from crockpot, letting the liquid drain off, and keep warm to serve. About 20 minutes before serving, prepare Hodgson Mill Quinoa & Brown Rice according to package. Serve with quick pickled vegetables (recipe below) and either bok choi leaves or salad greens of your choice.
Substitute smoked paprika if you don’t have any liquid smoke. Keeps in refrigerator for several days. Pork reheats best on stovetop or low oven (microwaving makes it hard and crispy). If you cook for 16 hours like I did, you can start it around midnight the night before eating, skim off the excess liquid when you wake up, and it will be ready to serve around 4pm (you can keep it warm for a bit too).
Quick Pickled Vegetable Slaw
- 5 cups finely sliced vegetables (I suggest carrots, red onions, and/or daikon radish)
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 1 cup cold water
Arrange vegetables in heat-proof bowls or jars – either mix them together, or separate each type so people can choose. In a small non-reactive pot over medium heat, heat vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seeds, stirring, until sugar and salt dissolve. Stir in cold water, which should cool it off a bit.
Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables and refrigerate until needed. The vegetables will be crisp and lightly pickled in an hour, and totally pickled within 24 hours. You can keep these pickles up to a month in the fridge as long as the vegetables are completely submerged in the pickling brine.
From Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw
A 5-lb. shoulder yields about 6 servings.
You can find Crockpot Hawaiian Luau Pork with Quinoa & Brown Rice and other recipes from Hodgson Mill by visiting the Recipes page.