Is Pork Jowl The New Bacon?
by George Graham
Americans are addicted to bacon in all its crispy glory, but those in the know are turning to pork jowl, a chic and trendy ingredient that has been a staple of the Deep South and Cajun Creole pantries for the past century. Italians have long treasured this ingredient as an alternative to pancetta incorporating a cured version called guanciale into their pasta dishes.
Pork jowl is simply the fat, cheeky mound of flesh taken from each side of a pig’s head. In its smoked form, it is a common ingredient for seasoning many Southern dishes, but when sliced thin into bacon-type strips and peppered, it becomes a superior stand-in for bacon. Check your local butcher for pork jowl or these days you can find it in most supermarket refrigerated sections where bacon is sold. At least south of the Mason Dixon line.
In this recipe, pork jowl, when peppered and paired with fried green tomatoes, makes an especially tasty elevated version of a BLT sandwich. It’s an all-natural use of farm-to-table ingredients celebrating Southern culture and the importance of the whole hog as a food source.
Indulge. You deserve it.
Peppered Pork Jowl and Fried Green Tomato BLT with Spicy Mayo
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 1 hour total
Tips: Seek out Blue Plate mayonnaise and you will taste a truly unique Louisiana product that is widely hailed as the best mayo on the market. You may be tempted to build this sandwich on an artisan loaf of sourdough, 14 grain or some other fancy shmancy bread. Don’t do it. Stay true to the down-home roots of this sandwich and find the most basic loaf of sliced white bread you can find. Evangeline Maid is our Acadiana white bread and is a real slice of heaven— pillowy soft texture with a heady aroma of yeast. It’s been around forever, and the old rotating loaf of Evangeline Maid on the bakery sign is still turning after over 50 years.
1 cup Blue Plate mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Creole mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
16 strips peppered pork jowl bacon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch-thick
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 cup peanut oil
4 large romaine lettuce leaves
Eight slices white sandwich bread
For the mayo:
In a mixing bowl, add the Blue Plate mayonnaise, Crystal Hot Sauce and Creole mustard and combine. Add in the lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and stir together and refrigerate.
For pork jowl bacon:
In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, place each of the strips flat on the surface. Fry until browned on one side and turn over. Continue frying until all fat renders out and the pork jowl is crisp. Remove strips to a paper towel-lined plate and add more fresh-cracked black pepper.
For fried green tomatoes:
Prep the three stages in a dry –wet –dry sequence. Add the flour to a shallow bowl and blend in the cayenne. Whisk one egg with buttermilk and a dash of hot sauce in a mixing bowl and set aside. Blend the panko breadcrumbs with the Cajun seasoning in a shallow pan and set aside. In three different stations, line up the flour, egg mixture, and panko breadcrumbs.
In a cast iron skillet on medium heat add the peanut oil and bring to 375 degrees. Coat each tomato slice in flour and shake off the excess. Submerge into the egg mixture and place in the seasoned panko breading. Pat firmly so the breadcrumbs stick to each side of the tomatoes and move to a wire rack. Gently add the breaded tomato slices to the hot oil making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry on one side until browned and turn once with a spatula and continue frying until golden brown, about two minutes on each side. Move the fried tomatoes back to the wire rack and season with sea salt immediately.
Slather each slice of the white bread with the mayo. On the bottom place a large romaine lettuce leaf. Cover the lettuce with three strips of the fried pork jowl bacon and place two fried green tomato slices on top. Serve open face or close the sandwich with the top slice of bread.
Serve with bread and butter pickles and a tall glass of sweet tea.