After 15 years of working the finer dining circuit from San Francisco to Boston and finally to The Inn at Shelburne Farms in the Vermont town of the same name, Rick Gencarelli heard the food sirens calling to him from Portland, Oregon, beseeching him to claim a stake in the city’s tuned-in restaurant scene. He got there in 2010, looked around (“food carts everywhere, never seen anything like that, and the quality was awesome”), weighed his resources (minimal), and decided then and there that he could establish a name for himself while doing the de rigueur fresh, seasonal, and local thing from inside a tricked-out cart (24-inch griddle, two open burners, a 12-inch grill, countertop Fryolator, and toaster oven) parked in one of the hawker-style enclaves at 43rd and Belmont. Thus was born Lardo, home of a porchetta sandwich with caper aïoli and gremolata; the Bronx Bomber sandwich with shaved steak, salami, provolone, and fried onions; and a pork meatball bánh mì.
And now, the pork-savvy Gencarelli has a new wrinkle to spring on a pork-happy town: shredded pig’s ears, cooked sous-vide and then sauced à la Sichuan, sandwiched with shredded Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon and sliced Provolone in a ciabatta roll brushed with soy sauce and olive oil. In short, a Sino-Italian hit.
Shredded Pig’s Ear Sandwich
For 10 servings
• 12 lg. pig’s ears
• 12 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
• 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
• 3 Tbsps. olive oil
• 20 dried arbol chiles, stemmed and crushed
• 1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns, roughly ground (A)
• 10 Tbsps. Chinkiang vinegar
• 10 Tbsps. granulated sugar
• 7 Tbsps. dark soy sauce
• 3 Tbsps. sesame oil
• 2 tsps. potato flour
• 3 scallions, white part only, sliced on the bias
Place pig’s ears, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a vacuum-sealable plastic food bag; vacuum seal; cook sous-vide (B), maintaining water bath at 180°F, until internal cartilage can be felt when ears are pinched (about 8 hours).
Remove bag from water bath; remove pig’s ears from bag; cool to room temperature.
Cut pig’s ears into long strands (C); cut strands into 1 1/2" lengths; reserve.
Place all remaining ingredients except the scallions and 1 Tbsp. water in a saucepan set over medium heat; cook until it starts to thicken; thin to sauce consistency with water as needed; remove from heat; cool to room temperature; add shredded pig’s ears and scallions (D); mix; reserve in refrigerator.
Brussels sprouts with bacon:
• 12 1/4" slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces
• 4 med. shallots, thinly sliced
• 50 Brussels sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
Heat a skillet set over medium-high heat; add bacon; cook until lightly brown and fat has rendered; remove from heat; place bacon on paper towels to drain; reserve.
Add shallots to the skillet; sweat until softened; add Brussels sprouts; cook until they begin to wilt; add bacon (E); remove from heat; cool to room temperature; reserve.
To serve, brush oil and soy sauce over each half of ciabatta roll (F); place pig’s ears on one half of roll; top with 3 slices of provolone; top with Brussels sprouts (G); squirt with yuzu juice (H); cover with other half of roll (I); press down gently; halve on the bias; wrap in sandwich paper; repeat process to make more sandwiches; watch customers smile.