Sticky Braised Pork

Sticky Braised Pork

*This post was created in partnership with Marriott Hotels. As always the words and images are mine, this time though, the recipe was a collaboration with Chef Chris Coleman from Stoke restaurant in the Marriott hotel.

When I travel my greatest desire is to get a sense of place. I want, no matter how long the trip may be, to feel like a local in a place that is not my home. To see how others live, to experience another place that is unfamiliar, to step out of my comfort for the sake of growing.

So much of the process is awkward. Or is that just me? I don’t like taking off my shoes in the security line, especially if I forgot to wear socks. I feel so weird asking people to get out of their seats for me so I can go to the bathroom. So much so I’ll not drink as much water as I should and then I just feel gross. Trying to fiddle around with the few words I know in a foreign language to ask for the simplest of things is enough to make my chest tighten and my heart pound. But when you travel to have all of these opportunities to gently nudge out of your comfort. It’s all so humbling and I love that. Because in the humility there is growth.

I walk through my day to day in comfort. It’s familiar, routine – I got this! becomes my mantra but when I travel I come face to face with my insecurities and my vulnerabilities. Then you overcome them and realize – that wasn’t so bad and all of those silly things I once worried about fall aside.

It’s also an opportunity – and this is the main reason why we’re instilling the importance of traveling in our children – to step outside your own world and see a new one. To learn from others and take those lessons back to our everyday.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain

Marriott Charlotte Marriott Charlotte Marriott Charlotte

Last week I had the opportunity to check out a new Marriott Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. While the hard things lessen in traveling within your own country I still seek out the opportunity to learn more about the place and the people who call it home. It’s incredibly difficult to do that in a day, which was how much time I was there but even within the hotel they made it part of their mission to bring Charlotte in. I savored coffee roasted just a few miles from the hotel at Coco and the Director and at Stoke, the restaurant on the property, I was met with towering black boards which proudly displayed the names of the local farms which supply much of the food highlighted on the menu. I sampled local beers from many of Charlotte’s booming breweries and fell in love with pickled Okra all the while enjoying my dinner on plates that are handmade by a local ceramic artist.

It’s stunning to see the farm to table movement reach all new heights and for so many who now value the importance of supporting local farms and enjoying the delicious food that comes from that.

I asked the Chef from Stoke at the Marriott if he’d be willing to share a recipe with us and I’m so thrilled he agreed. I was enamored with the recipe the moment I read “char the oranges”. Now I did make a few changes, hopefully Chef Chris won’t mind, but I found it difficult to source a few of the ingredients and wanted this recipe to be easily adapted for us, the home cook. It may now not be as native to North Carolina as it once was but it can boast a bit of a Pacific Northwest flair. And isn’t that also the beauty of traveling? When a sense of one place finds its way into another and we bring a bit of their beauty into our own and share some of ours as well.

Marriott Charlotte Marriott Charlotte Sticky Braised Pork

Sticky Braised Pork

I did make a few changes to the recipe but wanted to leave it as written for those who live in another part of the country or who wish to make the original dish. I put my changes in parenthesis next to the original ingredient. Also, I served this over a bed of sharp cheddar polenta and I’d highly recommend you do the same. Roughly the recipe is 1 cup polenta to 5 to 6 cups liquid (I used 4 cups stock and water for the rest). Salt along the way then finish with about 2 cups grated sharp cheddar.

4-6 Pork Shanks, osso bucco cut, 14-16 oz each (I used a 3 to 4 pound bone in pork shoulder)

As needed, canola oil

1 orange, cut in half

1 onion, rough chopped

2 carrots, rough chopped

4 stalks celery, rough chopped

2 jalapenos, split lengthwise

4 cloves garlic, smashed

¼ c sorghum molasses (I used regular blackstrap molasses)

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 T black peppercorns

As needed, pork/chicken stock

1/8 c benne seeds (toasted sesame seeds)

1/8 c crushed peanuts (toasted)

1/8 c soft herbs (parsley, chervil, chives) chiffonade cut

Preheat oven to 300. Heat a little oil in a heavy bottomed pot large enough to hold all shanks standing upright. Liberally salt shanks all over. Working in batches, sear shanks on all sides until browned, removing to a plate or platter after browned (if you’re using a pork shoulder just sear it on all sides). After finished browning all shanks, place oranges cut side down to char. Once oranges have been burnt, remove to platter with pork shanks. Sauté the rest of vegetables, including jalapeños and garlic, until they have softened slightly. Add sorghum to pan and stir to coat veggies. Place all shanks back in pot, standing upright. Place burnt orange halves, thyme, rosemary, and peppercorns in and around shanks. Cover meat with stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover pot with a lid or wrap foil over tightly, and place in oven to braise for 3.5-4 hours, or until tender. When done, the meat should be pulling away from the bone, but not falling off. Remove meat to a clean platter. Strain braising jus to remove all veg/aromatics. Skim fat from the surface. Return jus to a clean pot, and boil until liquid is reduced by 2/3 and is syrupy. (Recipe can be made to this point 2-3 days ahead)

Pour the reduced glaze over the pork to coat. Sprinkle benne, peanuts, and herbs all over and serve.

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Grace’s Sweet Potatoes

Grace's Sweet Potatoes

When I set out to create my holiday menus I always start with the basics. It’s not Thanksgiving without turkey, potatoes, cranberries, rolls, stuffing, sweet potatoes or squash and pies. But within those classic parameters there are endless possibilities. Each year is an opportunity to learn from the last and to think outside the box while still capturing those flavors that to me embody the holidays.

This recipe from Julia Turshen’s new book, Small Victories, fits into my holiday menu beautifully. It’s a simple classic with a twist. For years I held firm to my belief that if they didn’t come from a can shellacked in a sweet sticky syrup and then covered with toasted marshmallows then they weren’t sweet potatoes. Some may say I’ve matured.

Julia and I both agree that so many recipes do us all a disservice by saying that an onion can be caramelized in as little as ten minutes. To truly take an onion from its raw pungent state to the point where it melts into a puddle of deep sweetness you must invest at least forty-five minutes to the process. Don’t let this keep you from moving forward with this recipe but rather embrace the slow of it, casually stirring the sticky onions with one hand and a nip of red wine in the other.

Beyond the caramelizing there’s very little to be done. A tip of balsamic here, a stir of cooked bacon or pancetta there, and tuck in of sweet potatoes roasted until tender on the inside with edges trimmed in umber.

Grace's Sweet Potatoes Grace's Sweet Potatoes

There’s a dual purpose in sharing this recipe now. I’m fairly certain it’s the final dish to complete your holiday menu and also, Julia and her publisher, Chronicle books are giving us all the opportunity to extend our holiday table by helping others fill their own. If you feel like helping others ensure that they too have the opportunity to share a meal please consider donating here.

This time at the table is special, perhaps this year more so than any other as our country feels deeply divided. I won’t make light of the pain so many are feeling and the fear that covers many but I hope and pray that the time at the table is covered in love and grace. There is something deeply intimate about sharing a meal together and I hope for all of you the time is fruitful and filled with radiating thanks giving.

Grace's Sweet Potatoes

Grace's Sweet Potatoes

from Small Victories

Serves 4


2 pounds sweet potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced (I used bacon)

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar


Preheat your oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and the red pepper flakes (if using), and toss everything together. Roast the sweet potatoes, stirring a couple of times, until tender and browned, about 45 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta, stirring, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a bowl and set aside.

Add the sliced onion to the skillet (add a little olive oil if there’s not enough fat in the pan – it will depend on how much fat is in the pancetta, so trust your instincts here). Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the onion, stirring now and then, until the onion has collapsed and is very soft and browned in spots, about 45 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Add the reserved pancetta and sweet potatoes to the skillet and stir everything together.

Serve warm.

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