Mike's Recipe, March 2013
We've made several trips to the Sticky Lips on Jefferson Road in Rochester since it opened. Their beer selection is great and there's often a time when we are in the mood for some nice, big plates of barbecue. One dish that I've gravitated to on their menu is the Pittsburgh sandwich. It features pulled pork, coleslaw, and french fries all stuffed between two pieces of bread. It's strangely reminiscent of Rochester's famous garbage plates, but as the name implies, it comes from Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh origin is particularly interesting to me because my sister moved down there with her husband so we've visited several times. On our most recent trip we actually had a brief conversation about the sandwich, confirming that it is a thing down there, but we didn't actually go to the source. Upon returning, some research was in order and I found the Primanti Brothers Wikipedia page.
The sandwich originated at a now 80 year old sandwich shop. It traditionally features some form of grilled meat, an Italian dressing based coleslaw, french fries, and slices of tomatoes. This was interesting to discover as the traditional sandwich doesn't feature the same slathering of barbecue sauce that Sticky Lips' does, but I guess that twist makes sense for them.
Well, I was inspired. I wanted to make a Pittsburgh sandwich for my March recipe. I didn't want to just find an inclusive recipe for a complete sandwich so I hunted around for a good pork recipe, a good coleslaw recipe, and (thanks to a suggestion from Heather) a cornbread recipe for a side dish.
On the pork side, my affinity for the crock pot drew me to this Easy Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork recipe on Chow.com. I know this is straying from the grilled meat style of the traditional sandwich, but I love finding things to do with pulled pork and letting it cook in the crock pot all day while at work just made too much sense. Heather did the shopping for me and as the recipe suggests, she came home with a bone-in pork shoulder. Now seeing this thing was a bit intimidating. Every time we've done pulled pork in the past we've used a loin so the sheer size of the shoulder threw me for a bit. I was excited to try something new though!
On the evening before the day we planned for this meal, I prepped the pork. I'm not the greatest at getting up in the morning so I knew that if I was going to get this going before work, virtually all of the prep needed to be done the night before. I did a very rough chop on the onions and garlic and threw them in the bottom of the pot. I then got all of the rub ingredients together on a nice big tray and rubbed as much of that mixture on the shoulder as possible. The rub from the recipe smelled amazing and was easy to put together. With the shoulder coated I put it in the crock pot (with just a bit of cramming to make it fit) on top of the bed of onions and garlic. At this point I threw a lid on and put the whole thing in the fridge for the morning.
The prep paid off as I was able to mindlessly take it out of the fridge, pour in some chicken stock, and turn it on low (for safety's sake) before heading to work the next morning. I ended up shooting home at lunchtime that day for another reason and I took the opportunity to flip the shoulder just in case it needed it. At that point it was already starting to smell amazing. Heather beat me home for the day and she went ahead and turned the pot up to high to make sure it was going to be nice and tender for dinner.
When I got home I left the pork cooking while I started to prepare the other parts of the meal. I decided to tackle the coleslaw first as some extra sitting time for it would probably help the flavors. I had a hard time finding a coleslaw recipe. From the get go I knew I didn't want it to be a mayonnaise heavy slaw, as the one at Sticky Lips isn't. After finding out that the traditional sandwich featured an Italian dressing based slaw, I definitely wanted to go in that direction. I ended up finding this Gourmet Coleslaw recipe on Foodnetwork.com. It even had me making my own vinaigrette which was exciting.
The recipe was really easy to put together but time consuming due to my slow knife skills. I opted to rough chop everything (as opposed to using the food processor or something) to get more of a rustic feel to the slaw. Using different colored peppers and cabbage really gave the final product a great appearance. The vinaigrette was super easy to make and tasted great, though I may have overdone it on the garlic a bit.
With the slaw resting in the fridge, the next step was the cornbread. I wanted to make a cornbread that had some sort of addition to it so, while I'm not really a fan of her show, I decided on Ina Garten's Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread. This was another extremely easy recipe to make. I mixed all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in another, combined it all together, and then poured in a pan to bake. The jalapenos were actually just chopped up pickled ones from our fridge because that's what I had on hand. I was a bit worried about a vinegar flavor but it wasn't really there. They actually worked quite well. The cornbread was very light colored which was a bit strange, but it tasted great.
After throwing the french fries in the oven (I went with frozen waffle cut ones), I moved on to the pork. I removed the shoulder from the crock pot and set it on a tray. It was already crumbling as I moved it so I could tell it was ready. The bone and large fat layer came off the meat easily and I set those aside. I then started tearing up the meat quickly and easily as Heather placed the majority of it in a bowl, destined to be leftovers. This shoulder made us a lot of pork. We were able to use it on salads, pizza, and nachos throughout the rest of the week!
With everything finally ready to go, I started assembling the sandwiches. They were definitely mountainous! I put the pork on the bottom, then the slaw, then a couple fries, and finally a fresh slice of tomato. We laughed as we squished them down prior to eating. They were some hearty sandwiches! I made myself two and struggled to get through them. The bites where the tomato and slaw dressing really came through were the best. Other bites where I got mostly pork were dry at times. If I do this again, a base coating of barbecue sauce below the pork would go a long way.
You just read one of Upstate Crumbs' monthly New Recipe posts. Every month, Mike and Heather will each make a post about a new recipe. For Mike, it will usually be an adventure in trying to learn to cook. For Heather, she'll pick something that is outside of her comfort zone in some way.