I used to get grossed out during those science experiments where you'd place a rusty nail or tarnished penny in a glass of Coke and a few days later it was shiny as new. The only thing worse than that, was the one where you'd put a piece of a hot dog in a glass of Coke, and after a few days it would completely disintegrate. It's probably no coincidence that I've never developed a taste for soda and prefer to do my calorie splurging in far more worthy areas like artisan ice cream or aged cheese. So you can appreciate my horror when, a number of years back as I perused a paperback, spiral bound cookbook likely put out by a church group or school marching band, I came across a most unlikely and horrid sounding recipe for a Coca Cola braised pot roast. Why, I wondered, would you ever do something so disgusting to a perfectly respectable cut of meat? Still, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought and simply passed it off as some weird thing only seen in the small town that housed the aforementioned church group or marching band.
Flash forward a decade to me reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle from May of this year and what do you think I saw? Yep, you guessed it, a recipe from a local chef for Coke braised pork.
As I read it I cringed, then groaned but then, eventually, I realized that I had no choice but to give it a try. The recipe was impossibly simple and upon reading it the first time, I was sure that the results would not be good. As per the instructions, I seasoned and seared a large piece of pork shoulder on all sides, deglazed the pan with the Coke and let that reduce, added chicken stock and let that reduce, and placed the meat back in the liquid and covered and cooked it for 2 hours. That was it. I then let it cool completely and put it in the fridge. The next afternoon I retrieved the pork, removed the fat that had congealed on top, warmed it back up and at long last, picked off a nugget to sample. Simply put, it was delicious! The pork was melt in your mouth tender. The flavor was rich with an undertone of sweetness, but was by no means cloying. I pulled off a few more pieces, crisped them up in a hot pan with some oil and tasted those… superb! Crispy, chewy, moist and delicious. I served the pork that night with warm corn tortillas, black beans, sour cream and avocado and it was devoured, plates licked clean.
A few nights ago, I made the dish again only this time it was eaten the same day that I made it and I served it shredded with buttermilk biscuits and creamed spinach. Once again, it was nothing short of divine.
It kills me to admit that this dish is as good as it is, and when I tell people about it, I'm certain that I mumble as I reveal the secret ingredient. Regardless, the fact is, that those church ladies and band mothers were obviously onto something good and I think that next time perhaps I'll be less quick to judge, even if the key ingredient is something that removes rust and tarnish from metal.