BLT sandwich with schnitzel
Published in the October 2012 issue
Chef Matt Jennings, Farmstead, Inc., Providence
What we've got in this sandwich is some hot pork-on-pork action. It's my merging of the two greatest inventions in the world: the BLT and fried chicken. I switched out the poultry for pork, and although in the restaurant I typically use the fattier shoulder cut or even porchetta, this schnitzel is made from the loin because it's easy to get from any butcher. Since loin is fairly lean, brining is a necessary step that doesn't just add flavor, it draws in and then holds moisture so that the cutlet doesn't dry out during the panfrying.
One of the most valuable skills any cook can have is the ability to layer contrasting but complementary flavors and textures, and you get it all in this sandwich: The crunchy cornflakes and tangy buttermilk in the breading mix are a real flavor flash from the past - very Americana - and dressing the lettuce with vinaigrette gives the sandwich its needed dagger of acidity. Using thinly sliced dressed tomatoes allows you to overlap slices, showing off the varying colors of the season's greatest heirloom varieties, topped with the natural salt and smoke of country-style bacon - two strips of perfectly crisp fat. This sandwich is ideal for a room full of friends on a fall afternoon. I don't think it's an accident that the glorious end of tomato season coincides with the beginning of football season.
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To brine the pork
- 2 lbs pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
For the brine
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 yellow onion (peeled and sliced)
- 1/2 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic (slightly crushed)
- 1/2 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp celery seed (slightly crushed)
- 3 sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves (crumbled)
Bring all ingredients to a boil, allow to cool completely, and then strain into a large bowl. If you have time, refrigerate until cold. (Brine works best at about 40 degrees.) Either way, submerge the pork loin in the brine and refrigerate for about 8 hours, give or take.
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To fry the pork
- canola oil
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 cups crushed cornflakes (crush with your hands until pebbly but not powdery; you want small, irregular pieces)
Remove pork from brine, rinse under cool water, and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cut into 8 half-inch medaillons. Place a long sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and lay out medaillons on it. Top with another sheet and pound the pork with the bottom of a heavy skillet until the medaillons are half their original thickness.
Heat one inch of canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until a pinch of flour sizzles on contact. Dredge each cutlet first in flour, then buttermilk, then cornflakes, making sure meat is well coated at each step. Working in batches, fry the cutlets until golden brown on the outside and cooked through - 3 or 4 minutes per side.
To make the sandwich
- rustic sandwich roll, lightly toasted
- the best mayonnaise you can find
- Bibb or Boston lettuce (or other soft leaf with crisp stem)
- 1 ripe tomato, sliced thin
- vinaigrette dressing
- 1 schnitzel
- 2 slices country-style (thick) bacon
Spread plenty of mayo on the roll. Lightly dress the lettuce and tomato slices with vinaigrette. To build the sandwich: bottom of bun, lettuce, tomato slices, schnitzel, more lettuce, more tomato, bacon, top of roll. Press lightly and eat.
What to drink: Jennings likes a crisp wheat beer like Harpoon's UFO hefeweizen.
-As told to Francine Maroukian