We celebrated my son’s 6th birthday over the weekend with a small surprise party with his family and closest friends, which meant that I had to somehow discreetly cook food for 24 children and adults without raising too much suspicion. And what better way to serve a crowd than with a large succulent tender pork roast? Inspired by a recent trip to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, I decided to serve the pork roast shredded on slider rolls with broccoli rabe, sharp provolone, and homemade sweet pickled peppers. This recipe was developed and mastered by Tommy DiNic’s Pork and Beef, whose famous roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich was crowned the best sandwich in America by the Travel Channel’s Adam Richman! It was a twist on traditional party food, and the payoff was well worth the effort.
I started with an 8lb bone-in pork shoulder, which I brined overnight in water, sugar, salt, and a few thyme sprigs. This is an optional step, but I really do believe that it made for a much more tender roast the following day. I also had some sweet peppers that I pickled overnight to use as one of the slider toppings.
While researching roasting pork shoulder, I came across a vast variety of opinions on how pork should be correctly cooked. However, one fundamental truth came through on most of my research…Pork shoulder is one of the most forgiving pieces of meat to cook, and can turn out tender and delicious using many different cooking methods. So use your own discretion in cooking pork… low and slow? perfectly fine! High and then low? Equally delicious!
I decided to follow a recipe from Saveur based on the cooking style and flavor of DiNic’s pork. I began by butterflying the pork and rubbing both the inside and outside with a garlic and herb mixture, then secured the pork back together with kitchen twine, tied at 1″ intervals. The pork was then placed in a roasting tin and put in a hot oven to brown for 40 minutes.
Once browned, I pulled out the roasting tin and poured beef broth, red wine, garlic, thinly sliced onions, and a bay leaf around the pork. I then poured 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes to the top and sides of the pork and broiled the roast until the tomatoes caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Once the tomatoes were done caramelizing, I covered the roast in parchment, covered the roasting tin in foil, and roasted the pork for approximately 3 hours starting the heat at 325, and then lowering it down to 300 for the last hour.
We were actually having the “surprise” portion of the party at our local bowling alley, so I pulled the roast from the oven and allowed it to sit and rest for 1-1/2 hours, still covered, and in the roasting liquid while we were gone. The result: juicy, flavorful, tender, and fall-apart pork that was still warm and perfect for pulling. I took the remaining cooking juices and blended them in my Vitamix, then poured the savory broth over the pulled pork (I had more broth than I needed to use).
Assembling the sandwiches was easy. I took crunchy yeast rolls , and split them in half. Then put down a thin layer of shaved sharp provolone, topped with a small mount of the pulled pork (topped with a small amount of extra juice), some blanched and sauteed broccoli rabe, and pickled sweet peppers. I popped a tray of pre made sandwiches into a warm oven to warm the bread and melt the provolone. It was a simple way to feed a large crowd, as all that really needed to be done was assembling the sandwiches and warming them as needed.
For the children that may not have cared for the peppers and broccoli rabe, we made simple roast pork and provolone sliders that went over very well for the little ones. In fact, I believe that one of the children made the comment “I didn’t like it…I LOOOOVED it!” Compliment enough for me Give it a try at your next get together. It will be a nice change from the usual menu of hamburgers and hotdogs.
- 1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
- 3 tbsp dried parsley
- 1½ tbsp dried thyme
- 1½ tsp crushed red chile flakes, plus more
- 1 8 1b pork shoulder, butterflied
- 3 sprigs rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
- 1 head garlic, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups beef stock
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 lb. broccoli rabe, approximately 4 bunches, blanched and shocked
- Shaved sharp provolone
- Large bag of yeast rolls, or any other type of crusty bread
- Pickled sweet peppers for garnish (recipe below)
- Heat oven to 450°. Combine fennel, parsley, thyme, and 3 tsp. chile flakes in a small bowl; set aside. Open pork shoulder on a work surface, and spread with half of herb mixture, rosemary, ¼ of the chopped garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Roll up shoulder, tie with kitchen twine at 1″ intervals to secure, and season out-side with remaining herb mixture, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer to a roasting pan and roast until browned, about 40 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven, and heat broiler. Add remaining garlic to pan, along with stock, wine, onion, and bay leaf; pour tomatoes over top and sides of pork shoulder. Broil until tomatoes are caramelized, about 20 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325°, cover pork with parchment paper, and cover roasting pan with aluminum foil. Cook until internal temperature of pork reaches 190°, about 2 hours. Set aside to cool.
- Transfer pork to cutting board, and remove bay leaf from pan. Transfer juices to a blender and purée; transfer to a 4-qt. saucepan and keep warm. Pull pork apart into large pieces and add to pan juices.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add broccoli rabe. Cook, stirring, until just tender, 2–3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a 12″ skillet. Working in batches if necessary, add chopped garlic and broccoli rabe and cook, stirring, until crisp and warmed through, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
- Place shaved provolone on bottom half of each roll, and top with pork. Add broccoli rabe and peppers.
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup distilled white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 clove garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 10 assorted sweet peppers, sliced into rings
- Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, garlic, and oregano in a saucepan over high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stir in jalapeno peppers and remove from heat. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
- Pack peppers into jars using tongs, cover with vinegar mixture, cover, and refrigerate until needed.