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.

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magic mushrooms

I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the mushroom family. I searched through my recipe archives, and not one dish on here highlights mushroom as the chief ingredient. Not one. Unless you count the sloppy Joes from last year, and I still vote that those are more “beefy” than they are “mushroomy”. Also, I still vote that the cans of Manwich are f-ing awesome. Judge not.

So we’re back to this – a first, of sorts – a sandwich with a key ingredient – a big ol’ fatty chunk of a portobello mushroom. Watch out, people.

I’d like to also add though, that the pesto is certainly something to “shake a stick at”, too. Chris and I spent a good part of a recent Saturday morning cooking together for our second bout of our Turntable Kitchen subscription (the first included an excellent cioppino, if you missed the post). We rocked out to some lovely tunes (including Biggie Smalls! yes! and also some lesser knowns that I’m sure will lead to album purchases) and got our bags packed for one of our very favorite picnics yet.

If you’re in the Bay area when the sky is clear (which is most certainly a crap shoot in the summer, for sure), head over to Lands’ End, essentially the furthest you can go northwest in SF without falling into the ocean. Don’t steal our picnic spot, which is top secret, because it’s so awesome and we’ll go there as much as possible, but search carefully for lovely patches of land to plop down onto. You might have to do a little shimmie down some dirt to get to the spot, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.

If you aren’t in the Bay area, just go have a picnic somewhere else for cryin’ out loud. Picnics are fun almost anywhere, except maybe a swamp, or during high-tide, or a heavy sandstorm in the desert, but you know what I mean, right? Pack a hearty lunch and some snacks, too. You’ll want to stay a while. Also, pack some sunscreen, because I forgot and almost couldn’t focus on my Temper Trap concert later that night as a result of severe burning of the insides of my legs. Especially the right one.

I pulled through and enjoyed it, in case you were wondering…

Even if you’re a meat-eater, make sure this exact sandwich is packed – you won’t regret it. And toss in a small grain salad with some quinoa, farro, or even just peaches and lettuce. A soda? Or just some nice, cold rosé (we opted for both). If you have any treats stowed away in the freezer, this is a perfect time to take that out at the last minute, throwing it on top of all your other goodies because it was the best last-minute idea ever (in my case, it was a slice of that awesome Earl Grey cake).

At the end of the day, you’ll have a hard time figuring out your favorite part of the meal, because it’s all just ten times better, and so magical, when you’re eating it outside. And atop it all, the best part of that is the company (well…. maybe the view…if it was as awesome as ours!).

Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches
adapted from Turntable Kitchen; makes 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
pesto
1 c arugula
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1/2 c walnuts
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 c grated Manchego cheese
1/3 c olive oil
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

sandwiches
2 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
olive oil
arugula for putting on sandwiches, optional
1 fresh loaf of ciabatta bread

instructions
make the pesto. combine arugula through cheese in a food processor. add some of the olive oil and process until smooth, adding more olive oil by the tablespoon if needed. add a squeeze of lemon juice, then adjust taste with salt and pepper as needed. process one last time until smooth.

oil and preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. salt and pepper the mushrooms and brush lightly with oil. grill whole for about 5 minutes on each side, until tender. meanwhile, cut ciabatta loaf in half to create the top and bottom sandwich pieces. I like to scoop out some of the bread (which you can grind up and use for bread crumbs) so the sandwich isn’t so ‘bread’) slather pesto sauce onto the bottom of the bread (using almost all of the loaf, but save some for another use if you have a large loaf. you just want enough for the two mushrooms to cover, which will result in good-sized sandwiches but not ginormous.) and then add arugula, if using. put mushrooms atop arugula and then close the loaf and cut into 4 equal sized sandwiches.

easy cheesy

Shortly after Chris and I officially started dating, we went on a road trip with his parents up to Pennsylvania to visit family. His parents grew up in the Northeast, so the area up there is special to them. I remember that Chris was pretty excited about it, and I remember Barry, my now-father-in-law, teaching us the “ways of the road” – things like freeway etiquette and so forth.

One of the basic tenets of freeway etiquette is this: when lanes are merging, each car in the merged lane lets one car from the merging lane in. It keeps traffic flowing as smoothly as possible. The douchebags trying to speed past and butt in are otherwise honked at, flipped the bird, or if it’s warm enough outside, you roll your window down and yell all sorts of obscenities at them. Welcome to the Northeast.

Needless to say, the “foreigners” always get yelled at. Most people unfamiliar with city driving will undoubtedly let cars and cars and cars in, especially the nice Southern folk. The Midwesterners are the ones who cut people off, as do the New Yorkers. The West Coasters? I dunno, maybe they just stay on the West Coast (I can’t blame them). Don’t you just love stereotypes?

Speaking of stereotypes, Philadelphia has always been stereotyped as the place to go for cheesesteak. This is something I’d think of as a pretty freakin’ awesome stereotype, sorta like saying that Southerners give the best hugs (it’s true), that Italians make the best pasta (also true, in my experience), and that San Francisco has a lot of hipsters (generally awesome, but sometimes annoying).

It was almost 10 years ago that we went on this road trip, so I can’t for the life of me remember where we went to eat, but I know they insisted on going to one specific place for a Philly cheesesteak. I don’t think it was in Philadelphia, since I don’t think we went to Philadelphia on that trip. I remember Barry really hyping this place up, and getting more and more excited about it the closer we got. And even though it wasn’t in Philly proper (I think), I remember being pretty blown away by the caliber of meat-filled sandwich goodness. I remember a lot of gooey cheese and if my memory isn’t failing me and instead plugging in nonexistent happenings, I think Chris’ parents even came across someone they knew in the restaurant, which to me, further solidifies the awesomeness of a place. So forgive me if I made that up, but I really don’t think I did.

I’m not sayin’ this recipe I’m sharing is the same caliber of awesomeness as a Philly cheesesteak. First, it needs three times as much cheese, then twice as much steak, and less veggies. I think I’ve even heard that some Philly cheesesteak places use Cheese Whiz now, and that’s definitely not going on with this sandwich. But at the end of the day, when you live on the other side of the country amidst, let’s face it, restaurants with a greater focus on avocado and turkey sandwiches (which are nothing to ignore out here), it gets the job done.

And for sure, that’s a memory I know is accurate. Probably because it only happened a couple of weeks ago, but still, it’s true.

Philly Cheesesteak
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2012; makes 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 (12-ounce) flank steak, trimmed
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 portobello mushroom caps
2 t olive oil, divided
1 c thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 t minced garlic
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t lower-sodium soy sauce
2 t all-purpose flour
1/2 c skim milk
1 oz provolone cheese, torn into small pieces
2 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 t dry mustard
4 (3-ounce) hoagie rolls, toasted

instructions
Place beef in freezer for 15 minutes. Cut beef across the grain into thin slices. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Remove brown gills from the undersides of mushroom caps using a spoon; discard gills. Remove stems and discard. Thinly slice mushroom caps and cut slices in half crosswise.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add beef to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until beef loses its pink color, stirring constantly. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté 6 minutes. Return beef to pan and sauté 1 minute or until thoroughly heated and vegetables are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in Worcestershire and soy sauce and keep warm.

Place flour in a small saucepan, and gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and mustard, stirring until smooth. Keep warm (mixture will thicken as it cools).

Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell; reserve torn bread for another use. Divide the beef mixture evenly among bottom halves of hoagies. Drizzle sauce evenly over beef mixture; replace top halves.

It Ain’t Grilled

If you asked me what the most difficult dietary restriction was, I’d be at an entire loss.

My first answer would be gluten-free – I’m not sure how life would go on without a nice, toasted piece of french bread, or a whole-wheat pizza, or even croutons. But given my love for making things from scratch, from making things myself, I’d be willing to bet I’d adapt pretty quickly, and with all the amazing gluten-free-ers blogging these days, I probably wouldn’t go without nearly as often as I think I would.

So then I think about the diabetics. No sugar? That doesn’t seem like a life worth living, either. Days without chocolate? Caramel? Ice cream? But again, there are a thousand sugar-substitutes available, and maybe I’d adapt to that, too. Maybe I’d get used to using Spenda or Truvia or whatever all the time. I mean, I use them a decent amount now by choice, so how bad could it be if my doctor told me to cut the sugar?

Which brings me to the next one – lactose. Oh, my. No cheese? No milk? But I suppose I could have it all if I just battled a little indigestion and upset stomach for a bit, right? And maybe I could take Lactase and it would be all better. Something tells me it isn’t that easy. And rice cheese? I’m not sure that tastes anything like Manchego or Gouda or Parmesan. I doubt soy ice cream is an ounce as good as whole milk ice cream, but again, if this were my life I’m sure I’d learn to love it, and learn to adjust. People do it all the time, don’t they?

Be that as it may, I absolutely couldn’t imagine life without toasted, cheesy sandwiches. And I could forego the meat as long as the cheese is there, as long as it oozes like this one, and as long as I feel a crunch of crusty, toasted bread between my teeth. Yeah, I don’t need bacon or chicken or any of that.

In fact, I’m quite happy with a large whopping mound of garlic-infused kale. Again, as long as cheese and bread are at the party, too.

Word on the street is that it’s National Grilled Cheese Month. Did you know? I have to thank podcasts and Facebook for this niblet of info, I do. And while I could really get behind a grilled cheese sandwich right about now, I realized I’d made this kale and provolone sandwich (aka grinder to anyone who uses that term. who uses that term, anyway?) a few weeks ago and I think I’d be more than happy to have it again.

Then again, a panini-style samich with sharp cheddar and a fresh tomato would also be pretty awesome. But since tomatoes are quite in season yet, maybe I’d better wait. At the end of the day, eating this one is hardly a sacrifice.

Kale & Provolone Grinders
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; makes 4

time commitment:  ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients
white bean puree
3 T olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans with liquid
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

sandwiches
2 bunches of lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale
Kosher salt
3 T olive oil, divided
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
2 c arugula or spinach
2 T fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 6″–8″-long French rolls, split lengthwise
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone heese
1 jalapeño, seeded, very thinly sliced

instructions
white bean puree
Heat 1 T oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 2 T oil. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

sandwiches
Cook kale, 1 bunch at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes (return to a boil between batches). Transfer kale to a baking sheet; let cool. Squeeze dry; coarsely chop.

Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 2 T oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add kale and arugula/spinach; cook, stirring often, until stem pieces are just tender, 4–5 minutes. Add remaining T oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more juice, if desired. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool. (you can do this a day early if you’d like)

Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 400 F. Open rolls and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread bean purée on one side of each roll; add greens. Top with cheese, then jalapeño. Toast, rotating pans after 5 minutes, until cheese is melted, 7–10 minutes. Top, slice, and serve.