The Thursday Gourmet: Pennsylvanian Mexican Sandwich

3 September, 2009

Today at school, (((Boy))) had a run in with another person who doesn’t believe that atheists exist.  A student said, “Thank god.”

(((Boy)) answered, “You’re welcome.”  The other student chuckled.  (((Boy))) then continued, “Which is really funny, considering I’m an atheist.”

“I don’t believe atheists actually exist.”

“Why not?”

The other student smiled and said, “Because I had a near-death experience.”  He then proceeded to tell about seeing the light, hearing god’s voice, and the whole rigmarole.

(((Boy))), without missing a beat, asked, “So how does your psychotic episode, most likely caused by lack of oxygen to your brain, have anything to do with what I do, or do not, believe?”

The other student then launched into a gentle tirade about atheists believing in god(s), just denying the existence either through hatred, pain or a predilection for sinful behaviour.

Anyway, it is time for yet another edition of the ever-ignored Thursday Gourmet.  Today’s recipe:

Pennsylvanian Mexican Sandwich

Yeah, I know.  A rather cludgy title for a pretty damn good recipe.  It is based loosely on a Cuban sandwich but this tastes very different, looks different, and is much lower in fat.  But it is good.  And it is a two-part recipe.  First come the buns (get your mind out of the gutter, people!).

The Bread

1/4 cup hot tap water
1 Tbsp dry active yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 mild fresh chile peppers (Anaheims, Poblanos, Jalapeno (if you want it with a little more heat)) (or a combination of peppers for a more complex flavour)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) sweet butter
4 cups good bread flour (give or take)
1 cup cubed cheddar or jack cheese

Warm a mixing bowl with hot water and drain.  Place the hot tap water, dry active yeast and sugar into the warmed bowl, whisk with a fork, and let stand until foamy.

While you wait for that, roast the chile peppers.  There are three good ways to do this.  You can  hold the pepper over a gas stove flame, turning frequently, until the entire skin is charred.  Do not let it burn through.  Pop it into a plastic container with a lid and seal it to let the steam cook the pepper.  Or you can place the peppers on a pan in a very hot oven (400 or so) and roast them for about 1/2 hour, turning frequently, until the skin is charred.  Or you can do the same thing on an outdoor gas grill (yeah, I know Philly, gas is for wusses, but it doesn’t make much sense fire up the charcoal for two little peppers) or (as I have) an electric grill.  When the peppers have cooled thoroughly, carefully scrape the charred skin off the peppers with the back of a knife.  Do not rinse them.  You want the oils.  Slice the peppers in half, remove the stem, seeds and veins, and dice into very small chunks (I slice them into diamonds about 1/2 inch long.

Check your yeast.  By now, it should be nice and foamy.  Add the warm buttermilk (or 1 cup warm water and the right number of scoops of buttermilk powder), salt, butter and 3 cups of the flour.  Mix with a flat beater or a wooden spoon until it makes a shaggy mass.  Then either switch to the dough hook and knead for twenty minutes or knead on a warm flat surface until the dough is silky smooth.  Add more flour (or more water) as needed to make a strong, but slightly slack, bread dough.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise for until doubled in size. 

Turn the dough out on a kneading surface and knead in the peppers and cheese.  Divide into egg-shaped dough balls.  Let them rest for about ten minutes.  Roll each dough ball into a round, flattened roll.  Place onto a baking sheet with about 1 1/2 inches between the rolls, place in the oven on the middle shelf, turn the oven on to 375 and bake for about 30 minutes until browned.  The second rise happens when the rolls are in the oven.  Don’t preheat or you will end up with peppered hockey pucks.

The Meat

1 pound fatty pork (boneless country ribs are cheap and perfect)
1 Tbsp Ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp Chipotle chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp extra virgin Olive Oil

Preheat your grill (if you use your broiler, ignore the oil).  Combine all the dry ingredients.  Rub into the pork on all sides.  Toss the pork on the grill.  Flip it after about three minutes and brush the olive oil on the seared side.  Repeat. Turn the heat down on your grill (if you are using a charcoal grill, make sure you don’t use too much charcoal so you can spread it out to modify the heat) and cook until well done and tender.

When the pork is cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Slice the pork as thin as possible accross the grain.  Pile some on a sliced pepper roll, add a couple of dill pickle slices, some mayonnaise, sliced cheddar or jack cheese, some sliced onion and enjoy.  The roasted pepper adds a zing to the bread, while the cheese and buttermilk adds a delightful richness.  Again, this is loosely based on a Cuban sandwich, but I went off in my own direction.



  1. You can also do this with a shoulder roast and you’ll get more meat that is juicier. Add some soaked apple wood chips during the first half hour and you’ll really make this pop. We use a grill that is all set up for fancy charcoal cooking called “German grill”. It’s pricey, but a beautiful system for doing just about anything over charcoal.

  2. Man, I just ate lunch, and this still sounds good.

  3. i love it!

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