Pork tortas with jicama slaw (Mexican style pork sandwiches)

June 4, 2010 § 2 Comments

I wish the Earl of Sandwich were alive today, so I could write him a very thoughtful, personalized thank you note.  What a stroke of brilliance, the sandwich!  Deciding to stick your meal between two pieces of sliced bread is like, I don’t know, the best thing since slicing the bread in the first place.  I’m hard pressed to think of foods that aren’t good, or even improved by, being added to bread.  And, I think it’s entirely possible I would be quite happy eating only sandwiches for meals for the rest of my life.  Would it be good for me? Probably not (though you could do worse, especially if you’re using all sorts of interesting whole/sprouted grain breads).  But it would be oh so crusty, and tender, and juicy, and succulent, and crunchy, and spicy, and salty, and all the other wonderful things sandwiches can be.  (When I was in France, everyone who was complaining abut weight gain was blaming the fact that they had started eating sandwiches  for lunch, instead of nice sit down 3-course meals.  Having access to those baguettes, and that Camembert and pate, I could easily see how 3-courses may accidentally be replaced by 3 sandwiches before your stomach had time to override your tastebuds!).

On a standard day, I eat an open faced sandwich for breakfast, and another open faced sandwich at lunch (just classic smørrebrød, for those who are familiar).  Then on a happy day, I might also get to have a messy, finger-licking, stacked sandwich just packed with goodies for supper.

On special occasions (also known as: random days when we decide to get together and grab a bite to eat) my friend Megan and I sometimes like to go to a teensy-tinesy little restaurant in downtown Boston that we call “The Fancy Sandwich Place” (it’s real name is Mike & Patty’s).  Now, I’m more apt with sandwiches than with any other food to look down at it and say, “oh my gosh, this is the best thing I have ever eaten!”, and at “The Fancy Sandwich Place”, I think I’ve done this to every sandwich I’ve gotten there.  They make them with uber-fresh, high quality ingredients, and assemble them with care and a chef’s flair.  You absolutely can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches there, but one of my favorites is the torta, which is kind of like a burrito put onto a sandwich: beans, cheese, vegetables, meat, guacamole.  The best, is the one made with carnitas – slow-cooked, juicy pork, that’s falling to pieces it’s so tender.  It’s topped with a slaw made of jicama root, which adds a wonderful sweet crunch.

It took me a while to get around to it, but the cost of “fancy sandwiches,” the general inconvenience of getting there, and the little ear worm that kept telling me, “come on, you could figure out how to cook that yourself,” have finally led me to do a little experimentation and create my own version of the sandwich.  Instead of a standard carnitas recipe, I used a pork recipe from a family friend that is marinated with limes so you get a tangy edge around the meltingly tender meat.  I added cumin, chile powder, lime and cilantro to the jicama to achieve almost a cross between a slaw and a salsa.  I used goat cheese like they do at the restaurant because it punctuates the other sandwich flavors with grassy creaminess.  Then I used a plain slightly smashed avocado instead of guacamole because I thought there was enough going on flavor-wise already (and oh how I adore avocado!)   Altogether the sandwich has a subtle heat and smokiness, sweetness and acidity.  It’s crunchy, silky, meaty, juicy, and really quite wonderful, if I do say myself.  (I’ll admit it, I looked down at mine kind of lovingly as I ate it)

The pork, beans, and slaw would also be great on rice or another grain or in a tortilla.  Or you could use the pork or the slaw on their own for other dishes.  But truly, how could pass up the chance to have a sandwich?!

Pork tortas (makes 8)

  • 8 good quality, large sandwich rolls
  • slow cooked, lime marinated pork (see below)
  • 2 avocados, pits and peels removed, chopped and just barely mashed with a little salt
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • Heated refried beans or black beans
  • 3 cups very coarsely shredded/julienned jicama root
  • 1 carrot, coarsely shredded
  • 4 scallions, quartered lengthwise and then cut into julienne length strips
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, yogurt, honey, lime juice, and spices. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes for flavors to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, combine jicama, carrot, scallions, and cucumber. Toss with the dressing.
  3. Split open sandwich rolls, and scoop a little bit of bread out of each side to make extra room for the fillings. Spread the bottom of each roll with some of the avocado. Top with beans, pork, crumbled goat cheese, and jicama slaw. Put the top of each roll on each sandwich, and serve. Have lots of napkins!!

Slow-cooked, lime marinated pork

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder or butt, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large limes, juiced (plus a bit more lime juice, for basting)
  1. Toss the pork with the rest of the ingredients and allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight (at least 8-12 hours).
  2. Put pork and marinade together in a Dutch oven or roasting pan, cover tightly, and bake in a 350F oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. (Peek at 1 1/2 hours to check the liquid levels and pour in a half cup, or so, of mixed lime juice and water if the pork looks totally dry – my pork often looks like it has no liquid by the end, but is extremely tender and falling apart nicely)
  3. Use forks to shred the meat apart. Stir any cooking juices into the meat, and use the pork in assembling the tortas.

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