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Soft drinks give unique flavors to everyday dishes

By By Penny Randall / staff writer
Sept. 3, 2003
Midwesterners call soft drinks "pop." People on the Eastern seaboard called soft drinks "soda" and occasionally "soda pop."
Whatever you say soda or pop few people rarely think about cooking with soft drinks.
Of course, there's the root beer ice-cream float. But generally, there's little in cookbooks about using soft drinks. But, carbonated drinks can provide flavor and moisture.
Fast-forward to a new generation. The world of cooking with "pop" likely involves grilling. At least that's what Steven Raichlen thinks. He is the author of "Beer-Can Chicken" (Workman, $12.95) and, most recently, "BBQ USA" (Workman, $19.95).
Based on the idea of grilling a chicken upright over an open can of beer, which produces a moist, succulent and flavorful chicken, Raichlen has a chapter on Beerless Birds.
He's grilled fork-tender chickens with a can of root beer that he describes as perfumed with sassafras, wintergreen and cloves. He's experimented with ginger ale, cola and black cherry soda.
There's a recipe for Root Beer Game Hens and Duckling a l'Orange using orange soda. Ginger Ale Chicken has a rub made from fresh ginger, garlic and spices.
Raichlen writes, "Barbecue sauces flavored with soft drinks are a long-standing tradition in the American South."
There's earthy sweetness in root beer. Besides Root Beer Barbecue Sauce, "Beer-Can Chicken" includes recipes for cola barbecue sauce and other "pop" sauces.
Recipes have also been developed using A&W Root Beer. Among them were a tangy steak sauce, Kansas City Honey BBQ Wings, glazed fruit kabobs, Boston Baked Beans, and Root Beer Angel Food Cake.
Cola is equally versatile. Coca-Cola has a long history in recipes for meatloaf, gingerbread, Cuba Libre Chiffon Pie, and sauces and glazes.
The recipes even have an international dimension.
In his book "Healthy Latin Cooking" (Rodale, $29.95), Raichlen refers to Coca-Cola as an ingredient in a traditional Venezuelan recipe for stew roasted in rich, black sauce.
In Jewish cooking, Raichlen said some people braise brisket with cola. The flavor profile is sweet, with acidity, and aromatic. Those flavors go well with barbecue and beef.
For pork, he suggests cherry cola. "Ginger ale is heaven-sent for poultry," Raichlen said. For a richer, fattier fish such as salmon, ginger ale or Sprite mixed with spices might make a nice marinade.
Baking with soda pop started in the 1950s.
There's a 7UP Cake made in a tube baking pan. It's similar to a pound cake: the 7UP gives leavening, but little flavor.
A Root Beer Angel Food Cake is made in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and topped with a root-beer glaze. Since the cake is baked in an ungreased pan, to remove the cake from the pan, invert it on four equal-height cups to suspend and cool.
You can even use cola as liquid in gingerbread. Use one package of gingerbread mix with 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 tablespoon orange peel, 1⁄4 cup orange juice, and 3⁄4 cup cola. Bake in an 8-inch square pan at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.
For cooking, it's recommended that carbonated beverages reach room temperature so that you can get a true measurement of liquid.