It is definitely spring here in Bozeman! You might be thinking “Oh, how nice! They must have warm weather!” No. That is not the definition of a Montana spring. Saturday explains it all: wake up to mediocre, not-too-cold but definitely not warm weather; starts raining at 9 am; starts snowing at 9:30; starts snowing sideways at 9:40; sunny and almost 60 degrees by 1; hail, snow, sleet, and rain, alternating for the rest of the day.
What the what?
Needless to say, I’m spending time in the greenhouse to warm up, and cooking things like this Mexican polenta casserole in the slow cooker! I first saw this recipe, for Mexican Polenta Pie, on Pinch of Yum (posted on my birthday, it was meant to be). Pretty much everything Lindsay posts looks amazing, but this one especially intrigued me: I realized I had NEVER cooked with pork. Aside from bacon, obviously. Super experienced in the bacon department, but never had I ever cooked anything else pork! I thought to myself, as William Wallace once said, “Well that is something we shall have to remedy, isn’t it?” So I did.
This recipe is really quite simple: throw a bunch of stuff into the slow cooker, and let her rip! Then cook some polenta, grate some cheese, broil for a few minutes, and you have a delicious, hot dinner! It’s also a great dish to do some experimenting with — throw in a layer of sauteed veggies between the meat and the polenta, do different cheese on top, flavor the pork differently, etc.
While the original recipe called for taco seasoning, I never buy it… so I made my own! The long list of spices could all be substituted with taco seasoning, if that’s more your style. I won’t judge. Also, the beer in the pork is really essential for flavor. Don’t use 24 oz though, you don’t want THAT much flavor. Trust me. I tried that. 12 oz is waaay better.
- 2 lb. pork butt or pork shoulder (a large boneless cut)
- 1 lb. dry pinto beans, rinsed
- 12 oz. light beer + 12 oz. water
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 16 oz. jar salsa
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ cups polenta
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheese for topping
- cilantro, sour cream, and salsa for topping
- Combine pork, beans, beer, water, tomatoes, salsa, all of the spices, and the garlic in the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 6 hours, or high for 4. When the meat and beans are done, remove from heat and shred the pork with two forks.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta and stir constantly until it thickens to a consistency you like (15-20 minutes). Stir in the frozen corn and shredded cheese, and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a 9×13 casserole dish layer the pork and beans, covered in the polenta, and topped with a layer of grated cheese (I used half cheddar half mozzarella).
- Place the pan under the hot broiler for about 3 minutes, or until cheese is beginning to brown.
- Remove from heat and serve with cilantro, sour cream, and salsa.