Sunday, August 8, 2010

Damned That Sandwich

Today was a day of cooking experimentation and the end result was what I am considering my own variation on the Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwich. To be honest, I had no idea what I was going to make, but I found a giant slab of pork belly in the freezer and figured, "what the hell...might as well do something with this."

I have no real professional training in the kitchen, but I love to experiment. Luckily, I have friends who work at some of the best restaurants in the city, so this goes out to them. Oh and if you're wondering about proportions, aside from the rough guess of the swine weight, I have no idea how much of what I used.

For the pork:
2 lbs pork belly, with skin.
Fresh rosemary
Whole peppercorn
Kosher Salt
Fennel Seed
Chicken Broth
Dry Sherry

For the Sandwich:
A damn good hoagie roll or french roll
Thinly sliced fennel
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced red onion

The reserve liquid from braising
two limes
sweet chili sauce
Fish Sauce
Sriracha chili sauce.

Cut the pork into four equal length strips, kind of bacon slab length. Roughly chop fresh rosemary and place into a small ziplock bag with a couple of spoonfuls of peppercorns, add salt, a big spoonful of fennel seed, and 6 big cloves of garlic. Use a mallet or hammer to pound the crap out of it all so the peppercorns break up and the garlic mashes up. You will have a rough paste like thing at the end. Smear that on all sides of the pork belly pieces. Heat oil in a large dutch over, and brown the meat. 

Once the meat is browned, add stock and sherry. I am not entirely savvy to braising techniques, but I added enough broth and sherry to cover about half of the meat. Cover and place in an oven preheated to 275. Then go to laundry, maybe read, I don't know. I checked on the meat  two hours later to see how it was doing. It had cooked through pretty much and there was still a ton of liquid left. 

When the meat is cooked through and extremely tender, take it out of the oven and out of the pot. transfer it to an oven tray with the pork skin side up. Turn the oven to broil. At this point, you are going to crisp up the skin on all sides of the pork belly, or maybe just the skin side. It depends on what you like. I let the broiler do its magic. 

Next I went on to preparing my greens for my sandwich. Carrots are typical for most Bánh mì, but I hate carrots and find them to be an insidious vegetable, so i skip them. I wanted something with crunch to contrast the tenderness of the pork. But hell put in whatever you like.

As for the sauce for the sandwich, I saved the broth that the pork had braised in and skimmed off the excess fat. From there I added the other elements to taste to give savory-tart dressing to compliment the vegetables and pork. 

Overall, it turned out damned good. Even if making a sandwich took the better part of four damned hours!

I would give you a picture of this feat of culinary experimentation, but to be honest, I ate the damned sandwich and made up a second stuck in in the fridge for tomorrow before it would have even crossed my mind to share it with people. But alas, I did share, so there.

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