Once the days grow shorter and the late fall chill sets in, I start slow cooking.

Be it slow-roasting in the oven, braising on the stovetop or simmering in the slow-cooker, the results are moist, tender and rib-sticking meaty dishes – the ultimate comfort food.

Simply put, braising involves cooking food in a closed vessel with very little liquid at a low temperature for a long time. That’s how Larousse Gastronomique explains it.

The best cuts of meat for slow-cooking are most often the least expensive. With lamb that’s shoulder. With pork it’s shoulder, ribs or pork belly, which is much fattier (it’s what bacon, salted and smoked, is made from).

With beef and veal, chuck and blade are good choices; so are beef cheeks and short ribs, which have become so trendy on restaurant menus.

Unlike leaner cuts, these are the easiest roasts to cook. With all that fat, they baste themselves, the juices from the meat mingling with the liquid in the pan, bathing the food.

For extra depth of flavour brown the meat first in a little oil over high temperature on the stovetop, scraping up the golden crispy bits at the bottom of the pan and adding them to the roaster along with chopped onions and carrots, celery, garlic and aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme or bay leaf and chicken or beef stock and wine or beer.

To start, you’ll need the proper pot: one that’s heavy enough to conduct heat slowly and gently; thick enough to prevent sticking; and big enough to accommodate the ingredients snugly. Cast iron or enamelled casseroles are a good bet, so are earthenware ones. Make sure they have a tight-fitting lid so that the moisture stays trapped in the pot. (If your lid doesn’t fit quite tightly enough, cover the food with a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil, then place the lid over it to create a seal.

Then sit back and wait for a few hours.


Here are two of my tried-and-true slow-cooked favourites – one for the oven and the other for the slow-cooker:


Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Apples and Ginger

Serves 4 to 6

This is a recipe I featured in my cookbook Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes from Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon (Les Editions Cardinal). To me, there’s no more sublime combination of flavours than apple, ginger and rosemary. I love this tender, fall-apart roasted pork served with a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes.

For rub:

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp salt1 tsp freshly ground black pepper1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


For roast:

  • 3- to 4-lb (1.5 kg) boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 large red onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 apples, sliced but not peeled
  • 1 cup (250 ml) apple cider or apple juice


Preheat oven to 325ºF (160ºC).

To make rub, combine garlic, lemon zest, ginger, rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Place meat skin-side up on a board and pat dry with a paper towel. With a knife, score the skin in a crosshatch pattern, making sure not to cut through to the meat. With your fingers, rub pork shoulder with the prepared rub, massaging it into the meat and pushing it into the folds. Place the pork skin-side up in a roasting pan and surround with onion and apple slices. Pour apple cider over it.

Roast, uncovered, for 3½ hours or until the meat is completely tender. Spoon juices over the top of the roast at regular intervals. When pork is done, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centre of the roast should register 150ºF (65ºC).

Let the roast sit for a few minutes before pulling it apart with a fork and knife into shredded pieces, discarding excess fat. Serve with the slices of apple and onion from the pan and spoonfuls of pan juices.


Chinese-Flavoured Ribs

Serves 4

Here’s a recipe for the slow-cooker, that countertop appliance invented in the 1970s by the Rival Company, which gave it the name Crock-Pot. Borrowed and adapted from Mark Bittman, the New York Times food columnist, many, many years ago, this just may be the easiest dish I’ve ever cooked. And the most delicious.

Bittman uses beef short ribs, but I have made this recipe numerous times using beef side ribs as well as pork baby back ribs and pork side ribs. Any way you do it, they always turn out deliciously sweet-and-salty, with beautiful Chinese flavours. And the meat falls right off the bone.

All you have to do is pile it all into the slow cover, close the lid and turn it on.

  • 8 short ribs, about 3 pounds
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 3-inch piece cinnamon
  • 5 thick slices of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • Chopped scallions or fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

Combine all ingredients, except salt, rice and garnish, in slow cooker. Cover and cook until meat is very tender and falling from bone, 5 hours or more on high, 7 hours or more on low.

If you like, remove meat, strain liquid and refrigerate meat and liquid separately; skim fat from liquid, and reheat with meat. Serve hot over white rice garnished with scallions or cilantro.