The Italian Peasant Sandwich

I grew up eating some classic Italian peasant food; recipes that were handed down from the old country to the new country. One such dish was escarole and beans. My mom used to make it so that it was like a porridge or thick soup. I thought: maybe I could make it less watery and throw it onto a sandwich with some braised pork. Below is what I came up with. I call it the Italian peasant sandwich.

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What you need:

  • 1 lb Boneless fatty pork meat (I used country style ribs here, but pork butt works too)
  • 1 head of thoroughly rinsed escarole
  • 1 can of cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
  • Crusty style sandwich bread – I would go with two 10-inch rolls
  • 5 Cloves of garlic (2 for the braise and 3 for the sautee)
  • Olive oil
  • Crispy fried onions or shallots
  • Unsalted butter
  • Slow cooker or crock pot
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • Cheap white wine
  • Onion flakes
  • Onion powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 3 Thai chili peppers
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Step 1: Sear the pork quickly in olive oil after coating all sides with salt & pepper. This will lock in the pork’s juices when it braises. LEAVE THE PAN DIRTY – you will utilize that porky brown goodness in a later step.

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Step 2: Place pork into slow cooker with 2 cloves crushed garlic and wine, just enough to cover the meat. Maybe half to 3/4 of a bottle. Add salt, pepper, fresh chilis (cut into halves or thirds), onion powder, onion flakes, crushed red pepper, and rosemary. Set to cook 3 hours on high.

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Step 3: Rinse your escarole to get all the fucking sand off. This green leaf is more “Sandy” than a chick with no arms and legs on a beach. Dry the leaves after rinsing.

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Step 4: Sautee the escarole with olive oil and 3 crushed garlic cloves on medium heat, putting it right back into the pan you just used to sear the pork. Start with half the escarole, let it wilt a little, and then add the rest. Trust me it will all end up fitting into a normal large sized pan.

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Step 5: Once the escarole is half wilted add the can of beans, plus the liquid in the can, and turn the stove to high. You want to boil off all the excess liquid while still retaining the flavor, infusing it into the leaves. Cook the liquid out, and add salt and pepper to taste as it finishes.

NOTE: As an alternative to adding the beans to the escarole in the traditional way, you could puree the beans into a spread, which you can then smear onto the bread.

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Step 6: Pull the pork meat out of the slow cooker and pour the excess braising liquid into a wide sauce pan or a wide based pot.

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Step 7: Add a tablespoon or two of unsalted butter to the sauce pan and reduce the braising liquid into a thickened sauce. While you wait, pull the pork meat apart with a pair of forks.

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Step 8: Toast the sandwich bread and slice it open. Fill it with escarole and pork, and top it with crispy onions and the sauce made from the braising liquid.

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Step 9: Eat, shit, repeat.

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