The Other Philly Sandwich!
South Philly has always been and always will be Italian food haven. Old fashioned Italian restaurants, sub shops, Italian Ice stands and pizzerias can be found all over South Philly. Tradition runs thick in this area and the food is as "old school" as it gets.
Everywhere that one looks in Philadelphia, signs for Cheese Steaks can be seen. By popular consensus, the Cheese Steak is the king of all sandwiches in this city. Unfortunately, a steady diet of Cheese Steak sandwiches will surely lead to multiple coronary bypasses later in life.
It really does not matter whether beef or chicken is the choice of Cheese Steak meat. The cholesterol content will still be high. The dark secret of modern high production inorganic farmed chicken is it actually contains as much cholesterol or more cholesterol than lean beef. Considering that chicken requires a higher cooking temperature, the cholesterol profile is thoroughly hardened. Hard cholesterols pose the highest health threat.
When shaved Philly Steak meat is combined with processed cheese that is cooked on a greasy griddle, one can easily imagine that the hard cholesterol content in a Cheese Steak expands exponentially. To give an idea of just how heavy and fatty a Cheese Steak really is, a South Philly Roast Pork Sandwich made with 1 pound of Porchetta (Italian style roasted pork) actually is a healthier choice. This certainly is an example of regressive health food logic done Philadelphia style!
A traditional South Philly Roasted Pork Sandwich is made with Porchetta. Porchetta has been made in Italy since the days of ancient Rome.
Porchetta is a whole pig that is gutted, skinned, deboned. The pork meat and fat is left whole and intact. The whole piece of pork is spread out flat, then it is highly seasoned with salt and flavored with black pepper, herbs, spices or even leafy greens like spinach. The pork is rolled up like a roulade and trussed with butcher's twine. Then the Porchetta is placed on a spit and slow roasted over an open flame.
In modern times, traditional Porchetta is still made the old fashioned way in Italian communities, like South Philly. As one can imagine, the flavor of Porchetta is far superior to ordinary roast pork.
Trying to find some authentic Porchetta outside of Italian communities is nearly impossible. Most ordinary grocery store clerks in America have never heard of Porchetta and the chances are that the word will be confused with Pancetta, which is a different Italian pork product altogether.
Due to practicality, most home cooks would not be willing to purchase a whole pig to make Italian Porchetta. A whole Porchetta is enough pork to feed a small army. The best that a home cook can do is mimic the Porchetta ideal when making a pork roast.
There is an alternative for those who crave Porchetta, yet do not want to bother with preparing a whole pig. A section of pork shoulder or pork butt can be seasoned and flavored like Porchetta, then roasted on a spit over coals or roasted in an oven. Just like with Porchetta, the fat should not be trimmed off of the pork roast, because it is the sputtering fat that creates the deep pork flavor and the fat keeps the meat moist.
A home cook that has meat fabrication skills can make a roulade with a section of pork shoulder or pork butt. The end result would be a miniature Porchetta. The roulade method is best for thoroughly flavoring the pork meat, especially if fresh herbs or aromatic greens are used. Making a miniature Porchetta is more challenging, but it is well worth the extra effort.
One thing to keep in mind is that the roasted pork is piled high on a good South Philly Roast Pork Sub Sandwich. If it does not look right, put more roasted pork on the sandwich! The Italian style Roasted Pork Sandwich in the pictures is a good example of piling it on!
Sautéed broccoli rabé (rapini) or sautéed spinach is a required garnish for a Porchetta Sub. Cheese is an option. Provolone Cheese is the standard cheese option for a South Philly Italian Roast Pork Sub, but just about any kind of Italian cheese can be added. A small amount of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese was sprinkled on the sandwich in the photos.
Italian Roast Pork:
This recipe yields enough roast pork for 1 extra large double meat sandwich or 2 regular size roast pork sandwiches.
This is a simple home style roast pork version of Porchetta. The meat is not fabricated into a traditional Porchetta roulade shape.
When opportunity knocks in the future, I will prepare a whole traditional Porchetta for a follow-up recipe. A Porchetta made with a whole pig can feed a few large families, so it is not practical for most home cooks.
Step 1: Select a large piece of pork shoulder that weighs 16 ounces. (Do not trim off the fat!)
Use a boning knife to stab 4 to 6 holes in the pork roast, so some spices and garlic can be forced into the meat.
Step 2: Brush the roast with blended olive oil.
Rub 6 minced cloves of garlic on the roast. Try to work a few bits of garlic into the holes in the meat.
Generously season the roast with sea salt and black pepper.
Flavor the meat with these herbs and spices:
- 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of basil
- 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
- crush dried red pepper (to taste)
*Try to force some of the herbs and spices into the holes on the roast.
Step 3: Place the pork roast on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
Add enough water, so the liquid in the pan is 1/4" deep.
Step 4: Slow roast the pork shoulder in a 275ºF oven.
Add a little bit of water occasionally, so the drippings in the pan do not burn.
Roast the pork till it is fully cooked and it is caramelized with golden brown color. A probe thermometer should read 155ºF to 165ºF for well done pork.
Step 5: Remove the pan from the oven.
Set the pork roast and roasting rack aside.
Deglaze the roasting pan with 1 1/2 cups of water.
Step 6: Pour the pork roast jus into a wide sauté pan.
Set the pan aside till later in the recipe.
Garlic Broccoli Rabé:
This recipe yields enough for 1 large Italian Roast Pork Sub.
Step 1: Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add 2 thin sliced garlic cloves.
Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
Step 2: Add 5 or 6 stalks of broccoli rabé.
Sauté till the broccoli rabé starts to wilt.
Step 3: Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Add 2 ounces of the pork jus from the other pan.
Simmer till the broccoli rabé is al dente.
Step 4: Keep the broccoli rabé warm over very low heat.
South Philly Style Roast Pork Sandwich:
This recipe yields 1 large sub sandwich.
Step 1: Cut a 10" to 12" long Italian sub roll and split the roll in half.
Warm the sub roll in an oven.
Step 2: Place the sauté pan with the pork jus over medium heat.
Bring the jus to a gentle boil.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Step 3: Cut the Italian Roast Pork into 3/16" thick slices.
Place the Roasted Pork Slices in the warm pork jus in the sauté pan.
Reheat the roast pork.
Step 4: *Cheese is optional!
Place 2 to 3 thin slices of Provolone Cheese (or your favorite Italian cheese) on the hot sliced roasted pork in the sauté pan.
Allow the cheese to soften.
Step 5: Place the sub roll on a cutting board.
Place a layer of the garlic broccoli rabé on the sub roll.
Step 6: Use tongs to mound the cheese coated wet Italian roasted pork on the sandwich.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of the pork jus over the roasted pork.
Place the top half of the sub roll on the sandwich and tack it in place with long frill toothpicks (or fancy bamboo sandwich skewers).
Step 7: Place the South Philly Italian Roasted Pork Sandwich with Broccoli Rabé on a plate.
Garnish the plate with roasted red pepper and an Italian Parsley sprig or a garnish of your choice.
Pile the juicy Italian roast pork a mile high on this sandwich and enjoy the ballgame! That is what Philly style cooking is all about!