Pork Sandwich.

pork sandwich

Anybody out there watch the Walking Dead? Well, we are pretty hooked on the show, honest to goodness. Chris has read the comics since Issue 1, so he was stoked when they announced a TV adaptation. Me? I tend to watch the zombie movies/shows/etc just to make him happy. Me not whining seems to make him not whine, which in general is a pretty good thing. So when I can, I just keep my mouth shut.

If you know me, you might have chuckled a bit there. I am rarely silent.

pork!

Anyhow, maybe you can sense where I’m going here. I decided to watch the show with him, way back when. One episode in, and I was hooked. So dang glad I kept my mouth shut that time for a change. So somehow, we roped a few friends into coming over and watching some episodes with us. We called it a “shredded meat party”. Ha!! They got hooked too. And we got to eat a lot of pulled pork.

The second half of season 3 started a few weeks ago, and we set up the same system. Another party of shredded meat. We are such cheeseheads. But this time, the crazy sickness took a ton of our group, and by mid-afternoon it was determined that it would be the two of us, the show, and a bowl o’ pork. We even grabbed some “SF Beer Week” beverages while we waited.

As it turned out, we managed to eat this dish that week and into the following week. I froze a little and ate that a week or so later. It was interesting: I was glad to have it between just the two of us, but at the same time, man, this was an amazing dish. It would have been a great one to share. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll make it again. Zombie or no zombie.

aleppo pepper pork sandwich

Aleppo Pepper Pork & Fennel Sandwiches
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; serves 6

time commitment: 3 1/2 hours the day of (30 minutes active), plus overnight marinating

printable version

ingredients

Pork

3 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder

1 T fine sea salt

3 T minced garlic

1/4 c plus 1 T Aleppo pepper

1/4 c white wine vinegar

sandwiches

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

3 T fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced

4 cups (packed) arugula

6 toasted rolls, split, for serving

instructions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Shred the meat into large pieces and toss with the pan juices and reserved juices. Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.

Battle Plantains: One for the Road

For those of you who know me (or even those who don’t and read in my little space), these little Iron Chef get-togethers have been one of my favorite ways to spend time with friends over the past couple of years. For one, I get to cook, and that’s an easy way to make me happy.

But for two, I get to see some of my favorite people, all in one room. We get a few short hours to chat, to drink decent wine, and to talk about food. If being with them wasn’t great enough as is, adding those elements only exponentially makes it better.

I started Iron Chef as an excuse to hang out with friends and do all of those things I mentioned above. I didn’t realize it would last for two years, and I didn’t realize we’d pick up so many competitors, er, friends, along the way. This little group of people, they mean a lot to me, every last one of them who’ve ever participated, and it is hard to say goodbye to an event I’ve looked forward to so much.

And while I don’t generally believe that all good things must come to an end, this time I get it. While I hope to one day start up an IC-SF, my Iron Chef Chicago days have come to an end. And while my IC Chicago days have come to an end, I do hope someone decides to continue it, and I’ll continue to keep my fingers crossed that it lives on, and that good food, good wine, and good friends continue to hang out together.

For my last competition, it was Battle Plantains. Now, I can’t say I really cook with plantains all that much. Heck, I think the only time I’ve ever cooked plantains is at a dinner event I helped my friend Caroline with (another Chicago event I will surely miss..), and we made some killer tostones. And so, rather than focusing on the plantains, I focused on finding something I’ve been wanting to make that could go with them.

I made pulled pork. Again.

Yes, you’ve seen these shenanigans around these parts once or twice. What can I say – I’m Southern at heart, and pulled pork is in my genes, I suppose. Plus, I had an idea for a twist and found a good recipe for a mango BBQ variation that was sure to impress. The only problem? No plantains involved. I decided that was a minor detail and made it anyway.

The Top Three:

  1. Heather’s Plantain & Mango Pulled Pork ‘Sandwiches’
  2. Michael & Kenna’s Plantain Cuban Sandwiches
  3. Jennifer’s Plantain Bread with Hazelnut Cream Cheese

As it turns out, it was a minor detail. Either the competition was rigged in favor of it being my final battle, or the plantain chips sandwiching the pork were enough to bring it all together. Either way, I’m heading to the West with a win in my back pocket, hoping in two months I’ll get to pick one last ingredient for my Midwestern friends.

Mango Pulled Pork
Adapted from Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira; serves 4-6 in sandwiches or a party when used as bite-sized pieces (plantain chips recipe below)

printable version (pork and chips)
printable version (pork only)

ingredients
1 boneless pork butt (~ 3 lbs)

rub
2 T brown sugar
1 T smoked paprika
2 t kosher salt

bbq sauce
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T g ginger
1/2 large onion, finely minced
1 serrano pepper, finely minced
kosher salt
1.5 c mango puree (bought as is, or made using canned mangoes pureed in a blender)
1/3 c fresh lime juice
3 T apple cider vinegar
2 T molasses
3 T Worcestershire sauce

for serving
plantain chips (see below) & cilantro OR
hamburger buns & pickles
also lovely as a tostada 🙂

instructions
Rub
combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl, then rub it onto the pork until well coated. Set aside while you make BBQ sauce. You could do this a day ahead and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

BBQ sauce
In a large saucepan (preferably a Dutch oven) warm the oil over low heat until hot. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and ginger; let simmer, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the onions and serrano and a little salt, to taste. Saute until they soften but don’t let them get any color. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Simmer about 5 minutes. Taste and season.

Add the pork shoulder to the saucepan, coating it with the sauce. Cover, and gently simmer until the pork falls apart easily, stirring and turning often, about 3 hours.

Remove the pork from the saucepan and shred it using 2 forks. Return it to the sauce and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve however you plan to. (I sandwiched a large tablespoon of pulled pork between two elongated plantain chips, sprinkling a little cilantro on top of the pork.)

Plantain Chips

printable version (chips only)

ingredients
canola oil
2 ripe plantains
kosher salt

instructions
in a medium saute pan, fill with oil up to ~1 inch. let oil get hot (but not smokey). meanwhile, peel plantains and cut into three chunks, lengthwise. using a sharp knife (or a mandoline if you’re fancy; I wasn’t), cut into 1/4″ strips.

once oil is hot, fry off strips about 5 at a time, flipping over after 1-2 minutes on each side. drain on paper towels and serve.

(if you’re making these for the pulled pork, they can sit out for a bit to cool before being sandwiched in between the pork and a little cilantro.)