Remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that oven-roasted pulled pork is just about the easiest and most inexpensive way to feed a crowd of meat lovers? Let's add most versatile base products to that list. With a pulled pork shoulder, you have the making of a sandwich, some hash, a great pasta sauce, a casserole—you name it. There are very few situations that can't be enhanced with a bit of strategically-deployed pork.
This time, we've got another sandwich in the works, this one a variation of the classic Philly combo of roast pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone cheese. Though really, it's more similar to the version my buddy Charles Kelsey makes on Saturdays over at Cutty's, his fantastic sandwich shop in Brookline, MA.
Rather than the soft, braised rabe you're likely to find in Philly spots, this rabe is still bright green with just a bit of bite to it, its bitterness muted but still present enough to balance out the sharp provolone cheese and sweet pulled pork.
The sandwiches start with my Ultra-Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder, which, if I may say so myself, is one of the most magical recipes around, turning a tough, chewy hunk of meat into something that melts in your mouth with an amazingly crisp, bubbly crust. It takes half a day in the oven, but the active time is just about 10 minutes. Toss on the salt and pepper, throw it in the oven, and forget about it. Deeply flavored, you'd swear that there's more to it that just salt and pepper, but there's not.
At least, not until after you pull it, stir in the chopped up skin, and season it with just a bit of vinegar and red pepper flakes to help the pork stand up against the bitter broccoli rabe.
At Cutty's, they slow roast and thinly slice their pork into melt-in-your-mouth piles on a deli slicer. At home, large, moist, juicy shreds is what we're after.
With the pork done, the next step is the broccoli rabe. I start by blanching the rabe in water in order to dilute some of its most overt bitterness. This step, followed by a rinse under cold running water, also deactivates the enzymes that can hasten its discoloration. Blanched-then-shocked greens will retain their color better when you sauté them than straight-up raw greens will.
For the sauté, I use plenty of garlic and anchovies cooked down in olive oil. Those are two flavors that love broccoli rabe. Once the aromatics are sautéed, it's a simple matter of tossing in the greens and seasoning them.
If you're the type who likes to get their planning done ahead of time, you can cook the pork and the rabe completely up to this point before assembling the sandwiches to serve.
When you're ready to eat, here's how it goes down.
Pile on the pork...
...then the rabe...
...then the provolone...
...and give it a quick blast under the broiler to melt the cheese...
...add some pickled peppers to cut the richness...
...and you're done. Make them mini-sized (I used Martin's party-sized potato rolls for this) and they make the perfect game-day snack. Since almost all of the work is done ahead of time, it just requires is a few minutes of work the day of, and this is something anybody should be able to do, even with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.