Call it what you want a sandwich a panini. a grinder a hoagie or a submarine. Do you sense a theme here? Yep, my brain is stuck in sandwich gear. You can blame the Saveur Magazine sandwich issue if you want, or maybe the Tom Colicchio cookbook ‘wichcraft’. Both of which are living on my desk this week.
But in truth I have been a sandwich fan since I was a kid. Because one thing kids know about sandwiches is this: less is more. And today that adage is truer than ever.
I realize Jared Fogel and the rest of the Subway franchise are looking at me askew right now. But I am sorry it’s true. Nobody needs a 12-inch sandwich loaded up with 16 ingredients to be happy. I don’t care how much weight he lost eating those things. That sandwich doesn’t pass the muster in my opinion.
It’s the super-size mentality that has destroyed so many great foods in the past few generations. Did you realize that a standard bagel used to be about 3-inches in diameter and contain about 140 calories? Today they have more than 350 calories with out the schmear!
Remember when McDonald’s introduced the Quarter Pounder? (Yeah, well I do…) A quarter pound of meat seemed obscene at the time. But a quarter pound of beef no longer shocks anyone. In fact you can hardly find a 10-inch dinner plate anymore– ‘cuz a burger won’t fit on it! 12-inches is the new norm in plate size.
Well these behemoths are not sandwiches. They shouldn’t even be food.
A sandwich is a balanced and concentrated meal unto itself. It doesn’t need to have 2,000 calories and weigh nearly a pound to satisfy. Because a good sandwich is a well-considered marriage of taste and texture.
To prove that I bring you a decadent little sandwich. It’s not the sort of thing I would recommend eating in an obscene size. In fact you can hold it in one hand if you want to because it has just 2 components. Pork and endive. But each one of these elements is prepared to bring out the best qualities. The flavors are intense and concentrated. It’s quite rich, though it contains less than 1/4 pound of meat once cooked. To me if you are going to eat fat, you might as well eat fat that tastes good. Real good. Besides a properly-sized portion of pork belly has fewer calories than that super-sized bagel even without the schmear. It’s all about proportion.
Well, proportion and balance. And, yes a sense of style and purpose. Have a plan when you make a sandwich. Concentrated flavors or rich ingredients means you can get away with a lot less. Making the adage less is more– truer than true.
Take condiments. Do you really need mayonnaise and mustard? What about cheese? Now I am not against these additions on a sandwich. But they must serve a purpose. They must increase my enjoyment of the sandwich and not merely be more is more just ‘cuz there’s room on the bun.
Tom Colicchio puts it this way, “If you took the bread away would it still make sense to match these ingredients?”
Which makes my ‘wichcraft’ inspired Pork and Braised Endive Sandwich make perfect sense. Its beauty lies in the pleasure of its simplicity. Pork and endive. Both carefully prepared so that their best qualities come forward. Every bit of it a step towards the balance and proportion that makes it completely satisfying.
There is pleasure in simplicity. This sandwich is a simple pleasure for sure. Pork and endive. Both carefully prepared so that their best qualities come forward.
1 1⁄2 lb boneless pork belly, skin on
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 T canola oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts washed and roughly chopped
2 clv garlic, peeled
3 c chicken stock, approximately
1 t caraway seeds
2 heads endive, leaves separated
2 t sugar
1⁄4 c balsamic vinegar
4 ciabatta rolls
dijon mustard, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large oven-proof skillet set over medium heat. Lay the meat, skin side down, in the skillet and cook, undisturbed for about 15 minutes. The key to crispiness is to not disturb the meat while it cooks. It will stick at first. But it will unstick itself when ready. At that point transfer the meat to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Reserving the excess for later.
Add the onion, carrots, celery, leek and garlic to the hot skillet. Cook stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return the meat to the skillet, skin side up this time, and add about 2 cups of chicken stock. Just enough to surround the meat with out submerging it. Bring to the stock to a simmer, then transfer the skillet to the oven uncovered. Cook the meat about 1 hour, and then add more stock to adjust the level in the skillet. Continue cooking until the meat is fork tender, about 30 more minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the meat cool somewhat it the liquid.
Once cool enough to handle, gently peel off the skin, cut the meat into 3/8-inch thick slices and return it to the skillet. Set aside in a warm place, but don’t cover the skillet so that the meat will stay crisp.
In a separate skillet heat about 2 tablespoons of the reserved fat over medium heat. If need be add a bit of oil to get the proper amount of fat. Add the caraway seeds and toss, heating them until fragrant. Add the endive leaves and sauté them until they are wilted and beginning to brown. Add the sugar, vinegar, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the liquid is reduced and the endive leaves get very soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
Slice the ciabatta rolls in half spread the mustard on the bottom half. Top with pork belly slices, followed by the endive. Close the sandwiches and serve.
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