Tips from Chef Jack:
Have your butcher freshly grind pork shoulder with about 25% to 30% fat content.
Ask them to grind it in a single pass through a medium plate; the goal being to literally cut the meat into tiny bits, not extrude it like commercial ground pork or hamburger.
When home-grinding, work with your meat very well chilled. Put it in the freezer for about half an hour before you are ready to grind.
Process the mixed meat and seasonings into casings for grilling or simply make it into patties for pan-frying.
The Italian Dip Sandwich
by Jack Burton
Once, a long time ago, I spent a good part of two years living seasonally in the town of Pocatello, Idaho.
Pocatello was not known as a center of high gastronomic innovation in those good old days. In the days when the government would still cut you a check for cash on the G.I. Bill.
I was sporadically attending class at ISU for the money. I also worked the odd job as a roofer, truck driver, or grill cook in a steak and pancake house.
The steak and pancake house was a 1960's-1970's conservative institution of a place. It was always jam packed on Sundays with a huge church crowd. Everyone got a plastic laminated menu
It was a weird sight. Half the guys on the line were normally still hung way over from their Saturday nights.
We did not dwell too much on the dining room, focused as we were on our ham and hash browns, and the getting to the end of our shift
Most importantly, we were focused on the frosty pitchers of ice-cold beer we knew were waiting for us along with our pals and sweethearts over at Buddy's!
Buddy's is a neighborhood tavern and Italian restaurant. It was and still is a great college town hang-out. A lively local with good home cooking and a place I hold dear for its impact on my culinary repertoire.
I cannot say that I did not come away from the steak and pancake house bereft of cooking skills. I developed a great dexterity with a steel spatula. Plus I have the ability to keep six feet of gleaming steel grill filled for hours on end with the blintzes and pancakes, the bacon and eggs of a standard American breakfast.
Buddy's, on the other hand, gave me something more and I will share it here with you.
It is not a recipe written on a napkin or anything like that. It is a presentation and a couple of recipes I have developed over the years based on my memories of evenings spent well with good friends. It is a way of entertaining, and keeping oneself entertained, with simple good food and drink.
Italian dip sandwiches are based on the famous Buddy's Special Sandwich, traditionally ordered with a salad, an extra bowl of tomato sauce for dipping, and a side of peperoncini, not to mention the frothing pitchers of beer and the hearty red wines fundamental to the Buddy's experience.
The sandwich itself is a simple affair, consisting of a char-broiled or pan-fried sausage patty on a lightly toasted french roll. I choose a fat and not-too-crunchy baguette and divide it into approximately six-inch-long sandwich-sized pieces.
Have a big salad ready and a pan of pizzaiola sauce warming (the recipes follow). When your sausage is cooked, dress the rolls with a couple of tablespoons of sauce, and that's it.
Some folks might be tempted to tart this arrangement up with grilled onion and peppers plus a slice of mozzarella cheese. That's up to you.
I prefer to have a bowl of warm sauce on the side for dipping, and crunch along on a few peperoncini as the sandwich disappears.
The salad can be served before, after or alongside the sandwiches.
Choose a time and a place. This is a terrific picnic meal for your backyard or anyplace with a barbeque.
The day before your picnic you can whip together a batch of Spicy Italian Sausage (the recipe makes eight nice patties), cook a batch of Pizzaiola Sauce and put up a bottle of salad dressing.
On picnic day you will be ready to roll, even if you had to put in a full day on the job!
Naturally, fresh tomatoes in season will make the best sauce, and home-canned tomatoes are next best. It's a well-prepared cook who can choose between the two year-round, but this year I cannot count myself as one of them.
Why in the world there are no home-canned tomatoes stacked away in my larder is a story of plain and simple sloth. There is absolutely no good reason for this situation as I live in prime tomato country. There were plenty of delicious tomatoes at the Farmer's Markets. I could have made the time for processing them. I simply did not.
I think that I am not alone. There may be a few of you equally busy people out there: Well-meaning people of good moral character who, for one reason or another, let tomato season slip past them.
I let the season get away from me. It seems one day I was enjoying fresh tomatoes with, or in, everything, and the next day the frost had settled in and it was too late. Such is life . . . .
This recipe calls for a combination of commercial canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. If you are in a position to be using fresh or home-canned tomatoes or sauce, use approximately the same weights and cook them down to the desired dip-able consistency.
Italian Dinnerhouse Salad
My favorite salad to have with Italian Dip Sandwiches is a conglomerate assemblage of crisp lettuces with croutons and a seasonal arrangement of boiled beans (white, red, or garbanzo), fresh blanched green beans and pickled peppers (peperoncini).
I toss the whole works with a simple vinaigrette. Heap it on a big platter family style, and serve the peperoncini in a colorful bowl on the side.
Italian Dinnerhouse Vinaigrette