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Pork Belly Reuben

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One of the benefits of making your own bacon is that you end up with a boat load of bacon fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: save your bacon fat! Otherwise, you might not ever be able to make pork belly confit, perhaps one of the most luxurious, if not down-right hedonistic things one could prepare from the all-mighty pig!



To confit something is to slowly cook it in fat, and so essentially what’s going on here is that you take a piece of pork belly, the same cut used to make bacon, cover it in it’s own fat, and cook it in the oven for about 3 hours, until it’s fork tender. My first encounter with pork confit was at a restaurant called Fork, located in the Old Town area of Philadelphia. I ordered it despite everyone else’s cackles and uhllll’s, and it turned out the pork belly upstaged the rest of the meal. It’s still the best I’ve ever eaten, and it’s set me on a dangerous course leading to coronary heart disease, because now I order pork belly if I see it on a menu irregardless of everything else.



This brings us to Bunk Sandwiches, a lunch spot staple for me in SE Portland. I had read in a magazine that this place features a Pork Belly Reuben on their menu, and therefore I was instantly drawn to the place. However, the menu changes daily, and this sandwich alluded me for many weeks. In that time, I decided the hell with it! I’ll make my own! And that’s what I have done here. I have since eaten one at Bunk, and I can attest that their’s is indeed very good, but so is mine! In fact, my girlfriend even told me that mine is better (haHa!) The amazing thing is how absolutely different they are.



While wondering aimlessly around the Portland Farmer’s Market a while back a certain loaf of bread caught my eye at the Pearl Bakery booth. It was called Vollkornbrot, a dense, hearty, German rye. Once I saw this bread, I knew I would make my reuben on it. In fact, it was actually the catalyst for the whole endeavor. It’s a great bread, and worked out wonderfully. The cheese I used was Tillamook Swiss. I had originally intended to make my own sauerkraut, but after realizing it would take at least five days, I decided to go with Picklopolis, a local pickler, instead. I had my heart set on sauerkraut made from purple cabbage, though, and they don’t make it in a purple variety, so I conspired to dye it purple with a bit of beet. However, while experimenting, I discovered another local sauerkraut purveyor, It’s Alive, produced just a few blocks from where I live, and was overjoyed that I had another choice. Both are excellent sauerkraut’s, and I recommend both of them, but It’s Alive won out for aesthetic reasons. What can I say? Finally, I used the Thousand Island recipe from Charcuterie for the dressing.



As for the Pork Belly Confit, here’s how I made it (you can make more than this at once, just double or triple everything):
Heat the oven to 200º.

Combine 2 tablespoon of the basic dry cure(1# Kosher Salt, 8oz Sugar, and 2oz Pink Salt), 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, a few leaves of fresh sage, 1 shallot, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa, and crush them to a powder in a spice grinder, or a mini-food processor.

Take this mixture and rub it into a 1 to 2# piece of pork belly. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for a day or 2.

PorkBellyInFatAfter this time has passed, place the the pork belly into an oven-proof pot, such as a dutch oven. Make sure that it’s a snug fit. Cut up the pork belly if necessary. The more room that is in the pot, the more fat that will be required in order to cover the pork belly. And yes, cover the pork belly completely with rendered fat.

Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, and then place it in the oven, uncovered, and cook for about three hours. When the pork belly is extremely tender, transfer to a separate dish, then strain the fat over the top of it, and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, or up to a month. This stuff keeps well, but trust me, it won’t last a month. That’s it for the pork belly confit, from here on out, it’s just heat and serve.

To prepare this sandwich, I sliced the pork belly into quarter inch thick pieces, coated them in cocoa powder, and fried them up in a non-stick skillet. Meanwhile, I toasted two slices of the Vollkornbrot in butter, in a pan on the stovetop, melting a couple slices of the swiss on one slice. Once the pork belly had a crispy golden exterior, I drained it on a paper bag, before placing it on top of the swiss cheese. Then I added the sauerkraut, and smothered it with the Thousand Island dressing, before topping it off with the other slice.

Give yourself time to eat this sandwich. It is incredibly rich. If you eat it too quickly, I swear, you’ll go into a pork belly coma.



PBRonBlack

Categories
Cooking My Favorite Sandwiches

Fried Green Tomato Bacon Lettuce and Tomato

The Fried Green Tomato Bacon Lettuce & Tomato with Goat Cheese Spread

fgtblt

One of my favorite sandwiches of all-time is the FGTBLT. I saw it for the first time on the menu at the Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC while my girlfriend and I were bicycle touring through the state, but I failed to order one then and there. However, the idea stuck with me, and once I was settled again (in a place with a kitchen) I endeavored to make this sandwich for lunch one day. It has quickly become an obsession, and I usually commit to making them whenever I see Green Tomatoes for sale somewhere, as they were at the farmer’s market the day before yesterday. My sandwich differs from most others that I’ve seen on menus here and there, including Hominy Grill, because I include fresh tomatoes, as well as the fried ones. Here I will describe how I make these giants of the sandwich world.

Ingredients: Green Tomatoes, Fresh Tomatoes, Thick-cut Bacon, Lettuce, A Good Loaf of Bread, Goat Cheese, a splash of heavy cream or milk, Flour, 2 Eggs, Panko (bread crumbs), Canola Oil, Spices

To begin, the Bacon:

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When I cook bacon, I cook it in the toaster oven, and there are a number of reasons why. The first is because of the uniform nature this method facilitates. Each slice come out equally crisp, and shaped almost exactly alike from piece to piece. The second is because I always save my bacon fat, something I recommend that everyone who loves bacon do, and this method leaves the fat relatively clean compared with pan frying. Bacon fat is great for SO many things, including sautéing, biscuits and gravy, and if you save enough, confit. I could go on: Save your bacon fat! And the third reason is because it’s easy to clean up.

This is what you do: Turn the toaster-oven on to 375º, line the mini baking sheet included with tin foil (or if you don’t have one, just shape the tin into a pan), fit as many pieces as will fit or you want to make, and then put it in the oven and let it bake until it reaches your desired crispiness. This is how it comes out:
hoverbacon

I know, it’s undeniable.

Now for the Green Tomatoes:

greentomato

You will need one bowl with flour in it, a second bowl with the two eggs, lightly beaten, and a third bowl with the panko. If you don’t know what panko is, it is Japanese-style bread crumbs. They are the kind I prefer, but use whatever you like. I usually throw a bunch of herbs and spices into the panko, such as minced parsley, cayenne, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper–use whatever you like–and then mix it up really well. Another good addition is parmesan cheese. I use parmesan in this recipe, but it’s not essential.

Take the tomatoes, core them, and slice them very thin, say a 1/4″ or so. Next is the assembly line process: 1. Dip each slice in the flour, shake off the excess. 2. Dip the slice in the egg, shake off the excess. 3. Cover and press the panko mixture into the tomato slice. 4. Set breaded tomato slice aside. Repeat until you lose your mind, or you run out of slices, whichever comes first.

Next, heat a large, heavy skillet on the stove at medium-high heat with about 1/4″ inch of canola oil. A good way to gauge when the oil is ready for frying is to place a couple of un-popped popcorn kernels in the pan and wait for them to pop. When they pop, the oil’s ready. Start frying! Place the tomato slices around the pan, but don’t crowd them, stick to four at a time. This is to insure that the tomatoes don’t reduce the temperature of the oil. Check to make sure they are frying evenly, and if not rotate them, and if they appear to be cooking too fast, reduce the heat a bit. Once they are golden brown on the one side, flip them over, and do the same on the other. Add more oil as needed. Lay the cooked tomatoes on a paper towel to soak up some of the excess oil. When they’re all done they should look something like this:

friedgreentomatoes

Making the goat cheese spread is a breeze. Simply take a good portion of soft goat cheese, add a splash of heavy cream or milk, and whip it together until it reaches a smooth consistency. Don’t buy goat cheese spread! It costs twice as much, and this is just as good! You can even mix in herbs to your own liking.

Finally, all you have left is assembly. Toast the bread if you like it toasted, slice the fresh tomatoes, tear off a couple pieces of lettuce, spread the goat cheese on the toast, and stack it as high as you dare!

fgtblt