Creole Braised Pork Shanks with Sweet Potato Gravy is a recipe that I believe my mother and aunts would have been proud of. My parents were of Creole heritage and moved from Louisiana to Michigan in the fifties, and this is where I was born. As a little girl, my mother and I traveled south to Beaumont, Texas each summer. This was the home of her brother John and his wife Ida. I could listen to Aunt Ida talk all day. She spoke with a Creole dialect and she was the queen of rusty gravy. Whenever we arrived, she would always have some waiting for me. Unfortunately, she passed before I could even try to get her recipe.
Rarely did my mother or aunts have any written recipes. They cooked by taste and sight and it was always on the money. As Louisiana natives, most of the savory dishes contained onions, bell peppers, and celery, the trinity.
Back to My Roots
Creole cooking was a staple in our home and the meals were hearty. Stick to your ribs type of food, as Momma would say. We ate lots of beans, greens, cabbage, and rice. There was always a bit of protein used for seasoning in these dishes. Granted it was healthy lean protein but man did it taste good? Salt pork, pork shanks, and neck bones usually found their way into these meals. My mother’s cupboard was also never without bay leaves and she told us not to eat them. They were for seasoning only. To this day, I love to season with bay leaves but wouldn’t dare eat one.
What are Pork Shanks?
Pork shanks come from the front leg of the pig. They’re available fresh or smoked. Pork shanks benefit from a long slow cooking time which yields an incredibly tasty cut of meat. If they aren’t cooked properly they will be tough and chewy. I enjoyed developing this slow cooker recipe for Swanson Broth, and as a tribute to all of the beautiful women that fed me well. Swanson Broth is about as close to homemade as I have used and has an incredible depth of flavor. Due to the inherent saltiness of the pork shanks, I used unsalted broth for this recipe. With the holidays, approaching this dish would be a great alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
About that gravy. It reminds me of my Aunt Ida’s rich and perfectly seasoned rusty gravy. There is no glaring sweet taste from the sweet potatoes. The blend of the potatoes, Swanson broth, veggies and dried spices combine for a velvety smooth complement to the rest of the meal. Very, very tasty, especially served over wild rice. I can only imagine the wonderful meals my mom would have served in a crockpot.
- 4 smoked pork shanks
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 celery ribs, chopped
- 1 small bell pepper, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 (14.5) oz cans diced tomatoes, untrained
- 4 cups Swanson Chicken Broth
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut into chunks
- Sprinkle black pepper and cayenne evenly over the pork shanks.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot.
- Add pork shanks and cook until browned all over, turning to make sure each side is golden brown about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the pork shanks to a Crock-pot.
- Sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic in the skillet scraping the rusty bits from the bottom.
- Cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the Swanson Chicken Broth, diced tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
- Toss in bay leaves and thyme to the vegetable mixture and continue to boil until it reduces slightly about 10 minutes.
- Pour the vegetable blend in the crock-pot with pork shanks and cook on high for 6 hours.
- When done move pork shanks to a platter and cover to keep them warm.
- Transfer all of the liquid and half of the vegetables to a blender or food processor with the sweet potatoes and process until smooth.
- If the mixture is too thick, add 2 TBS at a time of broth until it is to your liking.
- Spoon the Sweet Potato Gravy over the Pork Shanks when served.
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