I love my life in New York City. I live in a neighborhood that's an international crossroads overflowing with amazing food, have an apartment I adore, and even a large, sanctuary-like garden that I share with my neighbors. But all it takes is a trip to, well, just about anywhere else to realize how much so many of us sacrifice to stay here in New York.
For example, I went out to the Bay Area a little over a week ago for a family event, and jumped on a southbound CalTrain to visit Kenji in his new home in San Mateo. When he picked me up at the train station, his car was loaded with large power tools like table and band saws he'd just picked up at Home Depot. When I go to a Home Depot in New York, all I do is ooh and aah and then whimper longingly at all those big-kid toys I have no space for. Then he told me they were for his tool shed. Tool shed? Oh come on, that's not fair!
And that's just the beginning. In addition to the tool shed, there was space, lots of space, including a kitchen that could comfortably hold...like...more than one person. In the back, open greenery, a nice new grill, and a plum tree just starting to sag under the weight of its own fruit.
Instead of dwelling on the limitations that come along with my city of choice, I decided to take full advantage of what Kenji had while I was there. Mostly, that meant doing something with the plums and grill. He had some pork in the fridge and some fresh rolls on the counter, so the idea for a grilled pork sandwich with the plums quickly came together.
The thing about a grill is that it's easy to forget just how much can be cooked on it. Because just about everything can be cooked on it. For the sandwich, I wanted to do a plum chutney, so I decided to grill the main chutney ingredients: the plums, a jalapeño pepper, and scallions.
Grilling would help add a more complex, charred, jammy flavor to it. You'll want to select ripe but firm plums so that they hold up on the grill.
After grilling, I chopped it all up and mixed it together with some fresh mint, whole grain mustard, and enough sugar to balance the tart flavor of the plums—exactly how much will depend on the sweetness of your plums.
For the pork, Kenji had both top sirloin and boneless loin in his fridge, so we figured it was worth trying both out.
The loin was a little thicker (about an inch or so), so we sliced it through the middle...
...then sandwiched the halves between sheets of plastic, and pounded them until about a quarter-inch thick.
For the top sirloin, we just pounded it since it was thin enough to not require splitting in half.
Then we seasoned and grilled all the pork over direct heat, which cooks the pork through quickly while putting nice grill marks on it.
Right at the end, we threw the halved rolls on the grill to toast them.
I also whipped up a quick miso-slaw with sliced green cabbage, rice vinegar, and salt. In Kenji's creamy coleslaw recipe, he went to great lengths to figure out the ideal amount of time to pre-salt cabbage for the slaw, which helps draw out moisture, concentrate flavor, and soften it just enough. But for this one, we found that pre-salting softened the cabbage too much—this sandwich already has plenty of soft texture in the form of that chutney, so what it needs is crunch, not more tenderness. That meant skipping the pre-salt step here and just quickly massaging all the flavors into the cabbage right before building the sandwich.
To assemble, we spread some cabbage slaw on the bottom bun, then topped it with the pork, followed by chutney, and another slice of pork.
Then we spread more chutney on the top bun and closed the sandwich. As for the pork, we actually didn't have much of a preference, so use whichever of the two cuts you want.
This little tower of grilled wonders will have to hold me over until the next time I can fire up a grill. I wonder if I can sneak one out on my fire escape...