The idea of making ‘ultimate sandwiches’ has been brewing in my head for a while now; hell, I started already by making the meatball sub, the best chicken sandwich of my life and the po’ boy of dreams. Since then I’ve been, well, distracted, but when I was recently sent a sous vide machine to play around with, I knew it was time to get it involved. It had to be a meaty sandwich, it had to be extreme, and it had to be made in the Sous Vide Supreme.
I wanted to start with pork so I went down to the new butcher in Peckham, Flock and Herd, and bought a frankly massive piece of pork belly – 3kg. No idea why. The plan was to vac pack it, which is GREAT fun by the way; the first thing I vacced was two tomatoes and a cucumber – I’m sure you can imagine the arrangement. Very mature. Anyway, so I would smother the belly with fennel, chilli and garlic, roll it up like a porchetta, pack it and sous vide it for, ideally, 36 hours. Seems like a long time doesn’t it? It is. I wasn’t going to argue with Serious Eats however, which is where I found the appropriate cooking time and temperature; this is long enough for all the connective bits in this famously gnarly cut to break down into lovely gelatinous goo.
Complete with nipples…
My butcher’s knots need a little work…
So the sous videing was sorted but what to do about crackling? Long slow water bathing isn’t going to achieve that and we all know that crackling is the best bit; what good would the ultimate pork sandwich be without crispy pig fat? This is where the Serious Eats recipe really comes into its own, suggesting that the crackling is achieved by deep frying. Yes. Is deep frying a porchetta excessive? Yes. Is it very unhealthy? Yes. Does it achieve the perfect crunchy crackling we’re looking for? Definitely. So on the inside we have 36 hour (well, 30 actually; I didn’t fancy eating it at 4.30am) cooked ultra soft and succulent pork belly and on the outside the kind of satisfying crunch that can only ever be achieved by plunging meat into a wok full of hot oil and frying the shit out of it. Incredible.
Two versions of the sandwich were made. The first time I tried to be all posh about it, making a fresh mustard seeded slaw and a chilli flecked quince sauce to drizzle; the latter complements the hog in the same way as apple sauce but with a more interesting fragrance. Piled on to a soft white loaf it was good, but it just wasn’t right. I’d deep fried the pork for goodness’ sake; there was something just too damn clean about the rest of the sandwich.
Round 2. Amendment number 1 = different bread; I’d wanted to keep things British but in the end caved to the superior sturdy chew of ciabatta. Amendment 2 = pimp my shop bought coleslaw, yo. Yeah, that’s right, a mayo laden coleslaw was mixed with shredded spring onions, wholegrain mustard and a little lemon juice until it was just, well, pretty tasty actually. The quince sauce had to stay but needed a filth injection which came in the form of hot sauce and plenty of it (No Joke to be precise – it has the fruity notes to fit with the quince), plus all the glorious golden jelly from the outside of the sous vided pork. Now we were talking. Almost. The pork was sliced and then…guilty eyes met eager ones…a suggestion was made…the next thing I know I’m deep frying individual slices of the pork belly. That’s right, a second deep frying; more surface area to get good and crisp.
Ultimate Hogwich was born.
Ultimate Hogwich (I got like a million sandwiches out of this plus some of the best instant noodle pimpage I’ve ever achieved; recipe to follow)
This is by no means a quick job; 30 hours is definitely the longest I’ve ever waited for something to cook, but it was worth it. The sous vide machine is immense fun and the results are incredible; I can’t stop thinking about what to try next. The recipe can of course be made by just cooking the pork belly without a sous vide machine. Radical.
1 boneless pork belly, about 3kg in weight
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot chilli flakes
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
String to tie the pork belly
Heat the sous vide machine to 68.5C (Serious Eats suggested 68.3 but my machine wouldn’t have that) and start prepping the pork. Lay it out flat, skin side down and score the flesh in a diamond pattern. In a dry pan, toast the fennel seeds and black peppercorns until fragrant, moving the pan about over a low heat so they don’t burn.
Grind the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then sprinkle all over the pork belly flesh. Sprinkle the chilli flakes over the pork too, add the bay leaves and grate over the garlic using a microplane grater. Use your hands to work everything into the pork.
Roll the pork and use string to tie it tightly into a roll. Mix 1 tablespoon salt with the bicarbonate of soda and rub this all over the surface of the porchetta. You may then need to cut it into two pieces in order to vac pack it – I did.
So…vac pack it and once the sous vide machine has reached temperature, lower the pork in. Cook it for erm, 30 hours or even 36 if you are more organised than me. Once that’s done, remove the pork and plunge it into a sink full of iced water for 15 minutes, then remove from the bags, and save all the lovely gelatinous stuff round the edge. This is precious. Pat the pork dry, heat your oil for deep frying and really, really carefully, lower it into the oil. The pork should be halfway submerged, not totally. It will need about 5 minutes each side, during with time you should carefully spoon the oil over the exposed side. Just be bloody careful constantly, basically.
Then it just needs a final patting with kitchen paper before resting for 5 minutes and slicing.
For the quince sauce and coleslaw: melt a couple of tablespoons quince paste with some of the pork jelly and some hot sauce to taste. For the coleslaw, mix some shop bought coleslaw with lemon juice, spring onions and some wholegrain mustard. Pile the whole lot into a ciabatta and add a cheeky extra dash of hot sauce if you fancy it.