Cooking Light (October 2011)
If you follow us on Twitter, you know we just got back from a weekend in Memphis.
We were there to celebrate the wedding of Zach's best friend from college, Whitney. We had a marvelous time! Also? Every single meal we ate included pulled pork barbecue. Yes, even the breakfast omelet. (Oh, and that fried chicken doesn't count -- that was merely a snack.)
We're not complaining. We love Memphis BBQ, and pulled pork in particular: slow-braised so it's meltingly tender, and slathered in a smoky-sweet sauce. Actually, in Memphis, the sauce tilts decidedly toward sweet.
If Memphis pulled pork took a semester abroad in China, it just might come back as this Soy and Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder. With subtle Asian accents (soy, ginger, hoisin sauce), this is a little like BBQ by way of Beijing.
We thought this recipe sounded fantastic, but it wasn't until later that we really realized why: Turns out, it's almost the exact same flavor profile as our favorite short rib recipe of all time. We were enamored by Cooking Light's photo of a sandwich piled high with tender pork lacquered with a sweet Asian glaze.
The prep here is a straightforward braise: Sauté the meat, remove it, sauté the aromatics, make a sauce, put the meat back in, braise in the oven low and slow. Like all braises, this is an excellent way to make a humble cut of meat (in this case, pork shoulder) taste like a million bucks.
So how's it taste? Sweet. Really sweet. This soy-and-cola BBQ might actually out-sweet Memphis pulled pork. Don't get us wrong -- it's tasty. It's also just a little overwhelmingly sweet.
And the Asian flavors get a little lost. (Maybe this isn't so much "Beijing BBQ" as it is "Beijing-at-Epcot BBQ.") If we made this again, we'd double the ginger -- at least. We'd also double the rice vinegar: This barbecue was just begging for some sharp, acidic flavors to cut through the sweetness.
Still, we really liked it. Cooking Light's drool-worthy photo (which we shamelessly recreated) suggests serving this pork on a bun with cilantro and shaved carrots and cucumber. We opted for thinly sliced cucumber and quick-pickled radishes. Want to make your own quick pickled radishes? Dissolve salt and sugar in white vinegar, pour the mixture over thinly sliced radishes, and let them sit for a few hours (ideally overnight).
All in all, it's a pretty good Asian-ish barbecue!
One thing's for sure, though -- We definitely need a little break from barbecue.
(Well, at least for a couple meals, anyway.)
Soy and Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder
Cooking Light (October 2011)
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Nutritional information available at myRecipes.com
Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: about 3 ounces pork and 2 tablespoons sauce)
Total: 2 Hours, 25 Minutes
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 (3 1/2-pound) bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cola (such as Coca-Cola)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
1 cup diagonally sliced green onions
Preheat oven to 300°.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt. Add pork to pan; sauté for 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Remove pork. Add ginger and garlic; sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cola and the next 3 ingredients (through soy sauce); bring to a boil. Return pork to pan; cover. Bake at 300° for 1 hour and 50 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 10 minutes. Shred pork with 2 forks. Skim fat from cooking liquid.
Place pan over medium-high heat; bring cooking liquid to a boil. Cook 15 minutes or until reduced to about 2 cups, stirring occasionally. Combine pork and 3/4 cup sauce in a bowl; toss to coat. Top with green onions. Serve pork with remaining 1 1/4 cups sauce.