Any visitor to Philadelphia knows that, while cheesesteaks are delicious, the city’s truly priceless culinary gem is the exquisite Philadelphia Italian pork sandwich.
What makes a pork sandwich in Philadelphia Italian style?
Pull pork, dripping broccoli rabe (or spinach, depending on who you’re talkin’ to), peppers, a base of gooey provolone cheese, and a perfectly crisp yet soft Italian bun make for a beautiful Philly-style Italian pork sandwich.
When compared to a standard cheesesteak (in the purest definition of the word “standard”), the Philly pork sandwich is significantly superior because of its depth, complexity, and layering of flavors. I ate so many subpar cheesesteaks in college that I became tired of them.
Make your own Italian pork sandwich magic if you can’t get to Philadelphia to try one.
FOR THE PORK:
- 15 oz. of can crushed tomatoes
- 4-5 pounds of skinless pork shoulder
- 16 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 thinly sliced yellow onions
- 4 cups of pork, chicken or beef stock
- ½ cup of red wine
- 3 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 1½ tablespoons of ground fennel seeds
- 1½ tablespoons of dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary
- Olive oil
- 7 long hot green peppers
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 pounds of broccoli rabe (chopped into ½ inch pieces)
- 7 cloves of chopped garlic
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3-4 slices of sharp provolone per sandwich
- 12 crusty Italian rolls
- Jarred pepperoncinis
- Prepare the beef the night before by marinating it. It’s okay to remove excess skin from the pork shoulder when butterflying it, but you should leave the fat cap intact. We used a four-pound chunk from a larger cut, so there was a tiny bone in there as well.
- Put some salt on it and spread it around. Mix together 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, 2 tablespoons of powdered fennel seeds, and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary leaves.
- Use plenty of this seasoning and rub it all over the meat. Next, combine the minced garlic and 3 tablespoons of minced parsley. Partially cover the top and spread the majority on the inside of the butterflied pork shoulder.
- The pork shoulder has to be bundled into a tighter roll. Layer the onion slices in a roasting pan. Olive oil should be drizzled over the onions. To chill, the fridge must be left open all night.
- The day after, about 2 hours before you intend to roast the pork, remove it from the fridge so that it can come to room temperature. To bake at 450 degrees, heat the oven and place one rack in the bottom third and another in the upper third.
- Before you roast the pork and peppers together, prepare the peppers by washing, drying, slicing lengthwise, and deseeding them. (Skip it if you want your long hots to be extremely hot.) Add some salt and olive oil and toss.
- Put the roast in the bottom of the oven and the peppers on a rack in the upper part of the oven. For around 35 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, you should roast. (Depending on how hot your oven runs, you may want to check them around the 20-25 minute point.) The peppers should be taken out of the oven and left aside. Peppers can be reheated later by either being stirred into already-hot pulled pork or being returned to an oven for a brief period of time during the last few minutes of cooking.
- Add stock, wine, tomatoes, and bay leaves to the pork. Combining ingredients requires a good stir. Wrap the dish in aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. Continue cooking at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325. For another 2 hours, keep the pork in the oven.
- Take off the foil carefully, as you will be replacing it. Make broad, even slices across the roast with a carving knife and put them flat in the braising liquid. Cook for an additional 2–2 1/2 hours with the foil on top, or until the pork is fork tender.
- Broccoli rabe should be cooked and ready to serve just before the pork is removed from the oven. Place a quarter cup of olive oil and seven chopped garlic cloves in a skillet and heat over medium. Slightly brown the garlic, then add the crushed red pepper flakes and the broccoli rabe. You don’t want the stems to be crispy, so cook until wilted and then reduce heat if necessary.
- Pull the meat out of the oven. Put the bay leaves in the trash. With two forks, pull the pork into the pan, incorporating it with the other ingredients and the pan juices.
- To re-warm the roasted peppers you set aside, simply stir them in. If you want, you can reheat them in the oven during the final ten to fifteen minutes of roasting.
- Cut the Italian bread or rolls in half lengthwise for each sandwich. In order to melt the cheese, place a thick layer of sharp provolone slices on the bread (we used sharp provolone from the deli counter, but if you want to go true to the original sandwich, acquire a wedge of really sharp provolone and cut it into rough, thick shavings) and toast the bread. Pile on a mountain of jerked pork and let it ooze all over the plate.
- Serve the broccoli rabe on a spoon and tuck in several bits of long green hot pepper and bell pepper. Add pepperoncini slices, if using, and dig it right now!