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08/26/2020

~ Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich ~

IMG_5218In the event you're not familiar with this particular Chicago-style pork sandwich, it's known as The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich (Maxwell Street being a all-day Sunday outdoor market). Not to be confused with any type of pulled-pork sandwich, this sandwich, strange to most folks outside the city limits, places an entire bone-in pork chop on a nice soft roll, along with a heaping-helping of sautéed onions.  The pork chops are cooked on a flat-top griddle right next to a never-ending pile of thick-sliced onions.  Embellishments are an optional slather of mustard and/or a few pickled sport peppers.  Sold by the street venders, these are bona fide eat-on-the-street food.

Chicago's Maxwell Street Market -- a Sunday-only tradition.

Worldfamous-0x0For 100 years, Maxwell Street has been Chicago’s most renowned but unconventional business and residential district.  About a mile long, and sitting in the shadow of city skyscrapers, it's still a Sunday-only affair and place for new businesses to sell their wares, and, with a bit of luck, grow and thrive -- Maxwell Street Market was the precursor to open-air flea markets.  Fledgling entrepreneurs in need of cash came to Maxwell Street to try to earn a livelihood.  From clothes, to produce, to cars, appliances, tools, and virtually anything anyone could want, Maxwell Street offered discount items to consumers -- it was an economic hub for poorer people looking to get ahead.  The Maxwell Street Market, located at 800 S. Desplaines Street and open from 7:00AM to 3:00PM every Sunday, is a Chicago tradition with an eclectic mix of handmade crafts, resale housewares and clothing, live music, family fun and some of the best street food in Chicago.

All I did was replace the mustard w/some barbecue sauce.

IMG_5194My recipe started out as a straight-forward copycat of The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich. It evolved into Mel's Maxwell-Street-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich because, after making them a second time for our Penn State tailgate group (which genuinely loved them), a couple of the guys mentioned they'd like to try them with a slather of barbecue sauce (instead of mustard). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and, truth told, once coated in barbecue sauce, everyone unanimously agreed they preferred them that way.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it! 

IMG_50476  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops (Note:  You can substitute boneless pork loin chops, but, if you're doing it because you think it will make eating this unique sandwich more manageable, it will not.  The etiquette is to get a grip on the sandwich by picking it up at the bone-end, then eat your way inward, toward the bone.  Haha -- Holding that bone-in end actually helps to hold the whole thing together and makes the sandwich really easy to eat.)

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chops

1  cup K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, the rest of the 18-ounce bottle for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1  pound, 1/2"-thick-sliced yellow or sweet onion, sliced into half-moon shapes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

6  soft brioche hamburger-type rolls

IMG_5062 IMG_5062~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.  Slice onion into 1/2"-thick rounds, then slice rounds in half to form half-moons. Separate the onion pieces, arranging them in bottom of prepared casserole.  Set aside.

IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051~Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 6-7 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 6-7 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Transfer chops to a plate and set aside.

IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088~Step 3.  Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.  Return heat to 225°. Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring constantly to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  This will take less than 1 minute.  Turn the heat off.  Return the chops to the skillet and coat them generously, on both sides, in the barbecue sauce.

IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106~Step 4.  One-at-a-time, transfer pork chops to  casserole, arranging them on top of the onions as you work.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the remaining barbecue sauce on top of each chop (and continue  on with any remaining sauce if there is any left in the skillet).  Note:  At this point, the casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to proceeding with recipe.

IMG_5119 IMG_5119 IMG_5119~Step 5.  Tightly cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and reset oven to broil.  Uncover casserole and place 6" under preheated broiler until bubbling and showing signs of charring, about 2-3 minutes, watching carefully during the broiling process because the sugar in the barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.  Remove from oven.  To assemble and serve the sandwiches:

IMG_5185 IMG_5185 IMG_5185~ Step 6.  Place one steaming hot, juicy, tender pork chop on each roll and top with a generous heap of flavorful onions.  I like to serve these sandwiches with my creamy-crunchy cole slaw and dill pickle spears.  That said, they pair well with potato chips, French fries or my stovetop macaroni and cheese too.

Put a lid on it & enjoy this truly unique sandwich encounter:

IMG_5224Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich:  Recipe yields 6 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork; spatula; tablespoon; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47dc58e200cCook's Note:  While I rarely spend any time in the drive-thru lane of fast-food chains, on those rare occasions when McDonald's returns the McRib to its menu for a limited time, I'm not ashamed, well maybe a little ashamed, to admit to making the pilgrimage to the golden arches. For the ten or twelve minutes it takes to sit in the parking lot and eat it with a large side of fries and a diet Coke, I lock my nutritional conscience in the glove compartment and indulge in what I believe to be their greatest achievement.  Perhaps the "blush would come off the rose" if it were available whenever I wanted one, and, "if wishing made it so", I'd be willing to find out.  Live dangerously folks, try ~ Mel's Bone-Suckin' Copycat-McRib & Onion Sub Sandwich ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

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