The web is positively awash with Coca-Cola recipes, but instead of taking this opportunity to indulge my omnipresent sweet tooth, I've decided to change things up a bit and present a savory recipe! This blog has been very dessert-heavy of late - a condition I attribute to the fact that I use recipes to bake, but usually 'throw things together' when I cook - so it's high time I featured something a bit more nourishing - even if it does contain Coca-Cola!
I first encountered cola braised meat when we were living in Oklahoma, but it's taken me a long time to attempt a recipe myself. Matt and I don't usually buy soft drinks, but we had some Coke left from cleaning the car's battery terminals last week (a likely story, I know!) so I decided to give it a try - and let me tell you, the result was simply amazing!
I'll admit that I found the idea a bit gimmicky - surely a Coke-flavored meat would fizzy, frothy, and overly sweet (or else not taste of Coke at all!)? - but the resulting cut of beef was deeply flavored and surprisingly sophisticated. In fact, Matt and I were both reminded of some wild boar in chocolate sauce that we tasted in the Tuscan hill town of Monteriggioni. Before you dismiss this as ridiculously high praise, I encourage you to try the recipe for yourself.
(Of course, I think the comparison was helped by the addition of other unusual ingredients, including cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper...but the opportunity to braise your meat in chocolate (well, cocoa powder) should just increase the incentive!)
The original recipe called for a detailed, multi-step oven-braising process, but I've simplified it for the slow cooker, so now all that stands between you and rich, tender, sweet-and-savory beef is a bit of marinating, chopping, searing and simmering.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Mind-numbingly Good Coca-Cola Braised Beef
adapted from this recipe at Food & Wine
2 Tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2- 3 pounds beef (any cut suitable for braising, such as brisket, chuck or round), trimmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped
2 large onions, thickly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 14-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons ketchup
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon and cocoa powder. Rub mixture evenly into beef and set aside in a baking dish. Cover completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Sear beef in pan until browned, about 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a lightly greased or oiled slow cooker bowl (greasing isn't necessary if you have some of those nifty, disposable slow-cooker inserts).
Add onion and garlic to the heated frying pan, deglazing with water or a small amount of Coke if necessary. Cook until onions become translucent and garlic is caramelized (about 10 minutes). Add sliced carrots and cook until slightly softened (a further 10 minutes or so - don't worry if they're still a little firm as the slow cooker will take care of this!). Remove onions and carrots to the slow cooker bowl, taking care to cover the meat evenly.
Deglaze the pan with the Coca-Cola, tomatoes and ketchup. Heat just until the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan are dissolved (that's where the flavor lives!). Add tomato and Coke mixture to the slow cooker. If necessary, add enough water so that your meat is at least half-submerged in liquid.
Cook on high until the meat is fork-tender (about 4 hours) or on low for up to 8 hours. Meat should fall apart easily when tested with a fork. Remove any accumulated fat from the top of the juices and discard before serving. Serve hot, with carrots and sauce - some mashed potatoes wouldn't go amiss, either!
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