cooking with maine beverages, local soda, maine root company, o-rama, pumpkin pie soda, soda braise, soda braised chuck, what would paula deen do?

O-Rama in a Bottle: Local Potables

Green Bee Soda. Moxie. Allen’s Coffee Brandy. Maine Root. Allagash. Urban Farm Fermentory Cider. Peak Organic Brewing. There are more than enough locally produced beverages to choose from, say, if you were going to include it in a recipe. Which is exactly what was asked of us this month for our ‘O-Rama‘ assignment. Now, being as smart as I am, I went with probably one of the more obscure beverages in the Maine line up: Pumpkin Pie Soda from Maine Root.

The seasonal offering started appearing on shelves about a month ago and will probably be around for another few weeks. It’s definitely one of the odder drinks that I’ve had in my life. It’s an orangish hue, the only defining ‘Pumpkin’ thing about it (there’s no actual pumpkin in it, mind you, just ‘spices’) because the flavor is more akin to some bastardized Dr. Pepper bred with a root beer. Actually, describing it like that makes it sound more appealing than it really is. It’s just straight out weird to me.

Now, why, if I’m so turned off by the flavor, did I not choose something else? Because, it was there. And it was mocking me from the corner of my kitchen. It was purchased for my nephew, who at 15, loves it (take THAT into consideration when you wonder who buys something like this). I, however, am a lazy aunt who never got around to mailing it. So, it’s a choice of convenience.

For a while I was stumped for a recipe, even asking some friends what they would do with it. Then came a moment of clarity in one of the oddest of ways. In a not-quite-sober moment of thought, I wondered: WWPDD?

What Would Paula Deen Do?

Because if anyone would willingly choose to cook with an ingredient like this, it would be her. And her recipe would be one of epic bat shit craziness. However, she has not cooked with something as odd as this, but she comes close in doing a few recipes for Coca Cola. Neither option, nor any of the suggestions I had from people really appealed to me. So, I turned back to the internet and started searching for “Soda and Beef braise.” Eureka! Not long into my search I came across this recipe, that turned into a variation of this one:

2-3 tablespoons canola oil
2 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon espresso (or any finely ground coffee bean)
1/2 teaspoon all-spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 head of garlic, lightly crush and peel all the cloves
2 cans Coca-Cola (2.5 cups)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels. Let them come to room temperature. Meanwhile combine the cocoa powder, espresso, all-spice, salt and pepper. Transfer “spice” mix to a plate, coat each short rib on all sides with the spice mix, shake off any excess. Over medium-high heat brown the short ribs in the canola oil (~4-5 minutes per side). Transfer to a clean plate.

Add a little fresh oil to the Dutch oven and saute the garlic over medium heat until it begins to brown and soften. Add the Coca-Cola, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to the Dutch oven, be sure to scrape up any brown bits. Return the short ribs to the Dutch oven, bring to a boil, cover and cook in the oven at 350 for 2 hours.

Remove the short ribs from the Dutch oven and let rest. Place the Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat, strain out the garlic with a slotted spoon and reduce the cola sauce by half, salt to taste. When the short ribs have rested for at least 5 minutes, remove the bones, slice off the layer of fat on the bone side and serve with the sauce.

I was skeptical from the beginning, but was extremely pleased by the results. When the soda reduced, it added a nice molasses touch to the broth and toned down the high sodium content. Served with some mashed Swedish Peanut Potatoes, from Green Spark Farm, the Missus and I enjoyed a wonderfully comforting meal.