Supposedly, this is the dish that helped my Ukrainian grandma win over my grandpa’s heart – slow cooked pork butt with potato pancakes soaked in stewed pork juices. My grandma would make this dish for us on holidays and we were always looking forward to eating it as if it was some magic treat. When I crave comfort food I can’t help but recall the fork-tender meat, the rustic aroma of the spices and the scrumptious potato pancakes. It takes hours to prepare this dish but the hands on time is fairly short and the reward is enormous.
You can, of course, use other pork cuts for this dish but pork butt is the best. To make it super special, my grandma would pick pork neck, which is a part of pork butt opposite the shoulder blade bone. After about 3-4 hours in the slow cooker it will be melting in your mouth. I made a short video (below) where you can see how tender the meat is. I like trimming most of the fat off – it makes the dish leaner but has little impact on the taste. In the old days fattier pieces were considered tastier. Perhaps, but definitely not healthier.
When making potato pancakes for this dish I try to strike a balance of size vs how long it takes to fry them. The smaller they are, the most hassle it is to fry them all. But smaller ones are less likely to fall apart when serving.
I also like adding a carrot to the potato pancake batter. I picked up this trick from my grandma. A carrot will the give the pancakes a nice color and they won’t acquire that unappetizing blue hue as they cool down. This is especially important if you are preparing the pancakes in advance.
Slow Cooker Pork Butt with Potato Pancakes
- 1 lbs pork butt most fat trimmed off, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 medium size yellow onions quartered and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 cups water
- Olive or vegetable oil for frying
- For the potato pancakes:
- 2 lbs potatoes peeled
- 1 medium carrot peeled
- 1 medium size yellow onion peeled
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 large eggs
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- olive or vegetable oil for frying
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large cast iron pan or a skillet over high heat. Add the meat pieces and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.
In the same pan, heat two more tablespoons of oil and saute onions until golden brown. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the water, salt and the spices. Stir and transfer to the slow cooker.
Set the slow cooker to high and cook for about 3 hours, until the pork butt is fork-tender.
While the pork is cooking, prepare the potato pancakes. Grate the potatoes, the carrot and the onion. Place in a fine-mesh colander and let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the potato pancakes in batches of 4, adding more oil as needed. Set the pancakes aside.
Check the pork butt stew for salt and adjust if needed. Carefully ladle about 3/4 of the pork butt pieces and the liquid from the slow cooker into a separate bowl. Place a third of potato pancakes as a layer over the meat in the slow cooker. Return a quarter of the meat and liquid back into the slow cooker, spreading out. Repeat until all the meat and potato pancakes are layered inside the slow cooker.
Cover and cook for another 20 minutes on high to allow the flavors to meld together and for the pancakes to absorb the awesome stew juices.
To serve, gently transfer the potato pancakes from the slow cooker to a plate, then ladle some meat with juices on top - see video above.