The Philadelphia Eagles’ big Superbowl win last night has me thinking about the City of Brotherly Love today! While most folks are consumed by the underdog Eagles’ victory over the New England Patriots, my one track mind has me thinking about “wiz wit”cheesesteak sandwiches, salty Philly style pretzels and robust Italian hoagies.
Philly is known for serving up a host of iconic sandwiches, but Philadelphia fare has an underdog in the mix: the Roast Pork Italiano. While still considered a classic, this herb and garlic infused sub plays second fiddle to the more well-known cheesesteak. Enjoying a savory bite of this lesser-known favorite is the perfect way to celebrate the Eagles’ unexpected win last night.
Prized for a more subtle flavor than heavy-handed cheesesteaks, the roast pork sandwich pays respect to south Philadelphia’s rich Italian history. The offering traditionally features slowly roasted pork, bitter broccoli rabe and sharp provolone cheese on a crusty roll. Unlike the rule-bound world of cheesesteaks, there is ample room for creativity in the world of Philly’s roast pork subs.
My week-night version makes use of quicker cooking tenderloin, rich bacon, readily available spinach, and colorful roasted red peppers. This deceptively complex sandwich is a drippy delicious meal. It serves to honor the many winning food traditions Philadelphia has to offer and gives folks a taste of the Philadelhia Eagles’ victory at home.
Philly Inspired Roast Pork Italiano with Spinach, Peppers and Provolone
(makes 8 6-inch sandwiches)
The pork for these sandwiches can be cooked, cooled and sliced one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To reheat, simply cover the sliced pork with chicken stock before warming in a 300 degree oven until hot (about 10 minutes). This recipe can also be cut in half.
5 Garlic cloves
3 Thyme Sprigs
2 Rosemary Sprigs
¼ Cup plus 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
dash of chili flakes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Pork Tenderloins, trimmed
1 Pound peppered bacon
I Pound Spinach
1 Cup roasted red peppers (jarred or home roasted)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 (2 ft) loaves French bread
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ Cup grated parmesan cheese
8 slices of Provalone cheese, halved
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the garlic cloves with the thyme leaves and rosemary needles. Transfer the herb and garlic mixture to a small bowl. Add ¼ Cup of the chopped parsley, fennel seeds, chili flakes, and olive oil to the bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Butterfly the pork tenderloin by making a lengthwise cut through the center leaving a ½” border on one side. Open the tenderloin like a book and pound lightly with a mallet until about 1/3″ thick.
Lay ½ of the bacon strips vertically, side-by-side on a cutting board. Place butterflied tenderloin across the bacon strips. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 of the herb and garlic mixture over the cut surface of the meat. Fold the bottom of the bacon strips over the pork and then roll the tenderloin tightly to completely wrap in the bacon.
Transfer the rolled pork to a parchment lined rimmed backing sheet. Repeat this process with the second tenderloin, bacon and 1/3 Cup of the herb mixture. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the herb mixture over the exterior of both rolled roasts. Roast in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until roast reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow the pork to rest for 15 minutes before slicing into ½ thick rounds.
Meanwhile, sauté the spinach in a non-stick skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil until wilted. Season with salt and set aside. Cut the roasted red peppers into strips and toss with the balsamic vinegar, reserved parsley and a dash of pepper. Reserve the peppers and spinach until ready to assemble the sandwiches.
When ready to the sandwiches serve preheat the broiler. Slice the loaves of bread lengthwise and open like a book on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread 1 Tablespoon of butter on each side of both loaves of bread. Sprinkle one side of each loaf with ¼ Cup of Parmesan cheese. Place 8 pieces of the Provolone cheese on on the other half of each loaf. Place the bread under the broiler and watch carefully until the cheese melts and edges of the bread are golden. Remove from the oven and place the sliced pork over the provolone and garnish with the sautéed spinach and roasted red peppers. Top with a Parmesan bread half and slice each loaf into 4 6-inch sandwiches.