Monday, January 25, 2010

Carnitas meets Cuban Sandwich - Pulled Pork and Annatto Paste

The other day I picked up some Annatto (Achiote) paste from the expanded Hispanic offerings at the nearby Food Lion.  Many of us consume annatto without being aware of it.  Annatto gives many cheeses their orange hue, some cheddars, Muenster, etc.  Since it is a natural ingredient it is not often listed on contents labels.  When used more heavily, it not only adds an orangy-red color but the slightly peppery-sweet flavor often gracing enchilada sauces and the like.  There are some lovely pictures of the annatto seed, pods, and flower on The Perfect Pantry blog.

Well, as followers of this site know, we now have a freezer-full of pulled pork and I've been ad lib-ing  no-knead bread varieties. We had Swiss cheese and some bread-and-butter pickles in the fridge. So supper the other night was pulled pork and swiss cheese on no-knead french bread, a paean to the Cuban sandwiches I used to get in New York.

Ingredients for two large sub-shaped sandwiches:
  • 8 oz. pulled pork
  • 2 tsp. annatto paste
  • 2-3 Tbl. catsup
  • 1-2 Tbl. tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbl. chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbl. cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 8-12 slices bread-and-butter or dill pickles
  • 2-4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 submarine rolls or french bread
  1. Preheat the broiler
  2. In a medium skillet, mix and quickly sauté the first seven ingredients
  3. Slice the rolls lengthwise
  4. Spread the meat mixture on the bottom half of each roll
  5. Top meat with pickle slices
  6. Cover with Swiss cheese slices
  7. Place the four roll pieces (two with the meat, pickles & cheese, two bare) face-up on the broiling pan
  8. Broil on a middle rack just long enough for the cheese to melt and the bare roll parts to toast
  9. Place the bare tops on the filled bottoms
  10. Optionally, flatten the sandwiches with a rolling pin for a bit of authenticity
  11. Serve while still hot

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.