This one is Pork Tenderloin Confit, with Braised Cabbage, Applesauce, and Blue Cheese, on a Brioche Roll. When I first came up with the idea for this, I thought to myself that it was a late fall kind of sandwich, Sunday dinner on a roll. Well, it could be, but it also proved to be a Saturday spring picnic in the park kind of sandwich. Strange but true, it was both, depending on whether it is prepared hot or cold. Another thing that struck me was how similar it is to the last sandwich I made, the Pork Belly Reuben. It’s almost like the two are fraternal twins or something, except this sandwich was a star pupil and a model citizen, while the other had a penchant for 8 balls and hookers. But they both turned out alright, and no, I haven’t forgotten we’re talking about sandwiches here.
I turned to Charcuterie yet again for the rub in this recipe, and it was indeed this book that influenced the creation of this sandwich, with its talk of how confited pork loin is an “amazing cold cut”. I couldn’t resist the temptation so I bought a tenderloin from Trader Joe’s and rubbed it down, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for two days. To confit something is to poach it in fat; to fully submerge the meat in fat and to cook it at a low temperature for a long time, until it is fork-tender. This technique creates an incredibly rich, perfectly cooked product. The only trouble is that it takes a while. It’s not hard, though, on the contrary it is mind-bogglingly easy in terms of the results you can achieve. It does require that you keep a ton of rendered fat on hand. There is that: you have to be willing to keep a few pounds of fat in the fridge or freezer.
The Braised Cabbage and the Applesauce recipes come from the Chez Panisse Vegetables and the Chez Panisse Fruit cookbooks respectively. These are both wonderful books, and ones I turn to again and again for inspiration and guidance when I am faced with the conundrum of figuring out what the hell to do with God’s bounty. They rarely let me down. I make the braised cabbage all the time. It is so easy and a full-sized cabbage can last quite a while. It’s a wonderfully healthy thing to have on hand, and its great for dishing out a good old fashioned Ukrainian Gasmask to your better half. Making applesauce is even easier, and it’s interesting to mess around with different kinds of apples. The possibilities are endless!
For the Tenderloin: you will need a piece of pork tenderloin as large or as small as you care to make. Combine 2 Tbls Kosher Salt, 3 Bay Leaves, 4 Garlic Cloves, a half bunch of Flat-leaf Parsley, 2 Tbls of Black Peppercorns, 1 Bunch of Sage, 3 Tbls Chopped Shallots, and a 1/2 teaspoon Prague Powder (pink salt)(not essential, but it draws out a lot of water). Pulverize in a spice grinder, or barring that, grind it up as best as possible in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Rub the mixture all over your tenderloin, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two days.
Pre-heat the oven to 200º. Unwrap the tenderloin and fit it into a large enough pot or dutch oven to accommodate the meat and enough fat to cover it. On the stovetop, bring the tenderloin and fat to a simmer before placing it into the oven. Cook for about 3 hours.
When the loin is done, remove from the oven, and allow it to cool in the fat. Then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. This will keep for weeks, so if your not up to eating it right away it will be there waiting for you. To serve you can do one of two things. In either case, you pull it out of the fat, but in the one case you slice it up and fry the slices in a pan, and in the other you heat the whole thing, or a piece of the whole thing, up just enough to get the excess fat to melt away, then slice it up cold. It’s awesome either way.
To make the Cabbage you will need a whole red or green cabbage, an onion, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, and an apple. Take cabbage, cut it in half and core it. Then, slice it as thinly as possible. Do the same with the onion. Heat some sort of oil or fat in a large pot or dutch oven, and cook the onion for about 5 minutes or so. Add the cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, the vinegar, and a half cup of water. If the cabbage doesn't fit all at once, add it batches by allowing it to cook down for a few minutes. Once it is all in the pot, cover it and turn the heat down, and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Take the apple, peal and grate it, and once the cabbage has braised for the alloted time mix it into the cabbage, and allow to cook for an addition 5 minutes. That’s the cabbage.
For the Applesauce take as few or as many apples as you wish, so long as they aren’t mealy and flavorless, and quarter them, discarding the cores. Cut the quarters into half inch pices. Add a half inch worth of apple juice or cider to a pot on the stovetop and add the apples. Bring to a simmer, and cover, stirring occasionally, until cook until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. It can be as thick and chunky or as thin as you wish. That’s the applesauce.
To make the sandwich, all you have to do is combine these three things with a nice soft, crusty roll, and a sharp, tangy blue cheese to act as a counterpoint to the sweetness of the apples. I used a variety called Blue de Gex, but anything that has a real bite will do. I also add mayonnaise, but I think that’s an individual decision. It doesn’t really need it, but I thought it worked well to hold all the cabbage together, and thus give a more cohesive feeling to the sandwich. As I mentioned earlier, this can be prepared either hot or cold, depending on when you are eating it, and whether you are up to dirtying a bunch more dishes in order to make a sandwich. My girlfriend claims that this is the best of all the sandwiches I have featured here thus far. If you decide to try it, I hope that you agree!
One more thing. . . I’d like to give it a catchier name, but can’t seem to nail it. Any suggestions? The winner will receive my eternal gratitude!