When you have a wife and kids, sometimes you plan doesn’t go as you would like it to. This week I had planned to make chili and cinnamon rolls for my ILP. Well, my wife made cinnamon rolls for breakfast Friday and we had chili dogs for supper that night. I feel like my kids would have revoked my “Dad of the Year” award if I made them eat chili and cinnamon rolls again, so I called an audible.
My wife went and got groceries for the week yesterday, and one of the menu items for this week is Slow-Cooker Carnitas, which calls for a pork roast (if you’ve never had carnitas, I highly suggest you try this recipe). Then I had an idea. I told my wife to just get a big pork shoulder (or pork butt – same thing, just called different things) and we could split in half and make two meals with it this week.
One of my most favorite meals is roast pork, sauerkraut, and potato dumplings, known as Vepřo knedlo zelo in the Czech Republic. As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife’s family is from southeast Nebraska, close to the Czech Capital of the US, Wilber. Her family has a very strong Czech influence, hence my introduction to this recipe. I think her grandma (who will be referred to as Grandma Dona from here on out) made this for me one of the first times I met her family. It seriously is amazing.
My audible this week for my ILP was making this amazing dish instead of the one planned. I’m really glad I made this recipe. My wife makes it, but I have always been too intimidated to try to do it myself. Since this is more of a family recipe than one you would check Pinterest for, I used my wife and Grandma Dona as my primary resources. There was also a little research done on the website/Facebook Page Czech Cookbook.
I started my ILP this morning at about 11:30 am. I got out the pork butt and cut it in half (almost…there was a bone in there). Then I got out my wife’s Lodge dutch oven and put the pork butt in it. I just want to note that if you don’t cook with cast iron, I highly recommend it. There are a bunch of brands out there, but Lodge is definitely one of the most popular ones. Anyways, I consulted my wife on how to season the pork. She said to season it on all sides with garlic salt and pepper. I made sure to put the roast fat side up so that as the fat rendered it would go through the meat. I put the lid on the meat and let it cook for 4 1/2 hours at 275°F.
After the roast had cooked, I opened two cans of Frank’s Bavarian Style (Sauer)Kraut. I quickly learned from Grandma Dona that it has to be Frank’s Bavarian Style Kraut or the recipe just doesn’t come out the same. So I opened the oven and took the lid off the dutch oven. I dumped both cans over the roast, making sure that there was a substantial layer of sauerkraut over the roast itself. I put the roast and kraut back in the oven to cook for another hour and a half.
While the roast and kraut were finishing in the oven, I started on the thing that makes this meal: the potato dumplings. These delicacies are not at illusive as I once thought; they are really pretty simple. There are only a few ingredients: mashed potatoes, eggs, salt and flour. I did stray from Grandma Dona’s recipe slightly (because I added too much flour), and used a suggestion from Czech Cookbook. The website just added melted butter and a little milk to the dough. I mixed everything together and started boiling the water to cook the dumplings. Potato dumplings are super easy to cook. You just roll the dough into little (about 1 1/2″) logs, and then put them in the boiling water. You know that they are done when they float.
Before I started boiling the dumplings, I pulled the roast out of the oven and put it on the gas range. I removed the bone and then started pulling the pork with Bear Paws (these things are pretty cool). Per Grandma Dona’s suggestion, I added in some brown sugar and a packet of dry brown gravy mix to the meat and its juices. I stirred it all up and then put it on a burner on low while I cooked the dumplings.
After the dumplings were done, I added them to the dutch oven and carefully stirred it all together. I let it sit on the burner for about 30 minutes so that the tastes could all meld together.
I have to be honest, this meal turned out to be a lot easier that I originally though it was. The only catch is that it is definitely a meal that you have to plan ahead for. The meat cooked for about 6 hours, and you had to peel and cook the potatoes for the dumplings. I will remember in the future, when I ask my wife to make this meal, that I need to be considerate of the amount of time it takes and not make the request on a whim.