There aren't many instances in which you hear of a culinary dish being inspired by a drink, especially one of this nature. What is this magical drink I speak of? The Southern classic combination of cola and peanuts. These southerners aren't just taking a drink after munching on the salty legumes, they’re actually pouring the peanuts into their cola before drinking. According to The National Peanut Board, the drink was created sometime around the 1920's, when packaged shelled peanuts began showing up at filling stations where Coca-Cola was already being sold.
So how did I come up with the idea of putting together a main course? In the South we are known for loving all things pork. We’ve also been known to braise pork in cola and glaze holiday hams with it. So that combination was a no-brainer for me. The peanuts came into play from the southern cocktail mentioned above and from my love of Thai and Peruvian cuisine, in which the combination of pork and peanuts are seen in various dishes.
Cooking and Serving Notes:
- For extra flavor and color on the pork, try placing the shanks under the broiler of your oven until you get a nice char. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye so that they don't burn.
- The braising liquid makes a great glaze. Simply strain the liquid and simmer until it's reduced enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon and season to taste.
- For serving, I like to spoon some of the strained braising liquid over the pork for extra juiciness and flavor. It’s a good idea to taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning to your liking before pouring over your meal.
- Steamed rice, mashed potatoes and grits work great as an accompaniment to this dish.
- The peanut gremolata is great served with ducks and geese as well.
For the Cola Braised Wild Pork
- 4 hog shanks
- 2 cups cola
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leaf (lime leaves work as well here)
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- ½ cup onion, copped
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil (another high smoke point oil will work)
For the Toasted Peanut Gremolata
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup high quality peanut oil (olive oil works as well)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup toasted peanuts
- Salt and black pepper to taste
For the Pork
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a deep sided pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Sear the pork on all sides until nice and brown. Add the remaining ingredients. If the liquid isn’t covering between ½ to ¾ of the pork, add a little water or cola.
Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until fork tender. While the pork is braising, make the gremolata.
For the Gremolata
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have a coarse mixture. You don't want a puree, you're looking for a chunky mixture. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and mix to combine. If you don't have a food processor or blender, you can chop all of the ingredients with a knife and mix them together in a bowl.
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