1 pound bone-in (or 3/4 pound boneless) pork country shoulder ribs
Olive oil or bacon fat
1 small onion, sliced thin
4 large cloves garlic, minced, divided use
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup pork, beef or chicken stock
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes, divided use
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh parsley (including the stem)
4 – 6 ounces broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
2 – 3 ounces provolone cheese (mild or sharp, or a combination), sliced thin
2 hoagie or sub rolls
Italian Pork Sandwiches
Preheat the oven to 275F.
If the pork has large visible layers of fat, trim those off, but leave some of the fat on. Lay the pork on a rack and salt on all sides. Set aside (I usually salt the ribs before slicing the onion and mincing the garlic).
Heat the fat or oil in a large dutch oven or other oven-proof pan over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, taking care not to crowd the pan. Remove the pork to a plate or sheet pan.
There should be a generous coating of fat left in the pan. If not, add a little more. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and stir until they soften and begin to turn light brown. Add half the garlic and cook for a couple minutes more.
Pour the wine into the pan. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the wine has mostly evaporated. Add the broth and stir to get up any remaining browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add fennel, thyme, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon of the chile flakes, black pepper and herb sprigs. Stir to distribute and bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the meat pieces to the pan. The liquid should cover the meat about halfway; if necessary, add a little more stock or water.
Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 60 to 90 minutes, or until meat is fork tender.
(If you have a pressure cooker, you can brown the meat and onions either in a skillet or in the pressure cooker. Make sure to deglaze thoroughly with the wine, and use only 1/2 cup broth. Add the remaining ingredients to the pressure cooker and lock lid into place. Cook for 25 minutes at high pressure, with natural pressure release.)
While the meat is cooking, blanch the broccoli rabe. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl about halfway with ice and water. Bring a large pot of salted water (about 1 teaspoon kosher salt per quart of water) to a boil and add the broccoli rabe. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain and plunge the broccoli rabe into the ice water. Let cool thoroughly, then drain. Set aside.
When the meat is done, remove it from the sauce. Let it cool and then cut into chunks or shred.
Degrease the sauce: If you have one, strain the liquid into a fat separator, saving the solids. When the fat has separated, pour the sauce back into the pan. If you don’t have a fat separator, after removing the meat, let the sauce cool until any fat has risen to the top of the pan. Remove as much fat as possible with a spoon or use paper towels to blot it off.
Return the reserved solids from the sauce to the pan, removing the bay leaf and herb stems. If the sauce is too thin, bring to a boil and reduce until thickened slightly. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Return the meat to the sauce to warm up while you finish the broccoli rabe.
Coat the bottom of a medium skillet or saute pan with olive oil and heat over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the broccoli rabe and remaining garlic. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring, until the garlic is softened and fragrant and the broccoli rabe is hot (it’s okay if the broccoli rabe is browned in spots). Toss with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of red chile flakes.
To serve, split the rolls almost through and, if desired, remove some of the soft bread from the interior. Carefully spread the rolls apart and lay the cheese slices over the bread. Top with the warm meat and sauce and then the broccoli rabe. If you like, close the sandwiches, wrap in foil and place in a warm oven for 5 minutes or so to melt the cheese.