Food & Drink | January 2018

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Tank's Pork Belly Sandwich

Pictured: Brittany Ross

We have had some pretty good sandwiches in our house lately. A day or so after Thanksgiving, we put together one with leftover roasted chicken and bacon jam, and just last night, Abby made patty melts using homemade onion-rye bread.

In early December, we made a trip to Austin to attend the 25th annual Homeless Art Show and Sale hosted by Art from the Streets at the Austin Convention Center. It is one of our favorite art events each year, along with the Waco Cultural Arts Fest and Art on Elm here in town. The art that’s available at the show is created by homeless and formerly homeless individuals in Austin. On our way out of town that Saturday, we made a stop at Central Market where we found pork belly available back at the meat counter. We bought a pound of it for about $7 and used it to — you guessed it — make sandwiches the next weekend.

Now if you are going to talk about sandwiches in Waco, you’ve got to talk to Nelson Rue. He’s owned Schmaltz’s Sandwich Shop since 1978, when, as a 23-year-old recent college graduate, he bought the stores from the three fellows who started them. For a while, there were four Schmaltz’s locations in town: the original location at Baylor, Town West Center, downtown and Hewitt. Rue is down to two locations now. The Town West store moved spaces in the same shopping center in 1990, and the downtown restaurant went through a renovation in 1993.

A few things have been added to the menu, but otherwise, not much has changed at Schmaltz’s since ’78. The recipe for the original Schmaltz sandwich hasn’t varied, nor has the recipe for the bread. And it was the bread that led me to Rue one recent Friday morning. He was in the back of the Town West store, baking sandwich bread and the rolls that are served with soup.

The secret to a successful sandwich, Rue said “for us, it’s the bread,” which, not surprisingly, is made from the same recipe he inherited when he bought the restaurants. Rue has had to make some small changes as yeast and flour have changed over the years. And he has learned, sometimes the hard way, that salt is crucial to a successful batch of bread. He tried cutting back on the salt to speed up the bread-making once, and the result was not good. Nor were the handful of times he just inadvertently left out the salt altogether.

Rue proofs the bread in one oven, set on very low heat, and bakes it in another. Both the ovens were original to the Baylor store, he said.

I visited Schmaltz’s that morning in hopes of buying some bread to use for the pork belly sandwich we made for the photo shoot. But, Rue informed me, he can’t legally sell just the bread. That would make his establishment a bakery, and there’s a whole other set of laws and regulations he would have to follow in addition to those he already has to adhere to. (And in a health inspector’s visit the previous day, Schmaltz’s earned a perfect score.)

So Rue was kind enough to provide the bread we used. If you make the pork belly sandwich at home, use a Kaiser or onion roll, something hearty that will hold up to all the ingredients.

Another favorite sandwich recipe of ours is the French Dip, which we wrote about in the January 2016 issue of this magazine. In case you’re not a hoarder like I am, and you don’t keep your magazines forever, the French Dip recipe is available in the Food & Drink archives on the Wacoan website, wacoan.com.

The Recipes

Tank’s Pork Belly Sandwich

For the dry rub:

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cayenne

For the sandwich:

  • 1 pound pork belly
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped into large pieces
  • Chicken stock, white wine or beer, your choice
  • Sriracha Aioli (recipe follows)
  • Asian Apple Slaw (recipe follows)
  • Bacon Jam (recipe follows)

In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, brown sugar, cumin, salt, paprika, ginger and choice of pepper.

Using a sharp knife, score the top layer of the pork belly, cutting all the way through the fat. Liberally apply the rub to all sides of the pork belly. (You may not use all the rub, depending on how much pork belly you’re cooking.)

Heat oven to 450 F.

Place the onion, celery and bell pepper pieces into the bottom of a baking dish large enough to snugly fit the pork belly. Place seasoned pork belly on top of the vegetables. Pour the stock, wine or beer into the dish until it’s about halfway up the side of the pork belly. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 F and bake for about another hour, until the top of the meat is crisp. Remove the dish from the oven and let the pork belly cool.

Slice the pork belly into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices.

Place a dry skillet over medium-high heat and let the pan get really hot. Once the pan is hot, add a couple of pork slices and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the pork belly.

To assemble the sandwich, spread some of the Sriracha Aioli onto two pieces of bread. Top with a couple of pork belly slices, Asian Apple Slaw and Bacon Jam.

Makes about 4 sandwiches.
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Sriracha Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • Sriracha hot sauce, to taste

Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl. Mince the garlic on a cutting board. Add a pinch of salt to the garlic and, using the side of a large knife, mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Add the garlic mixture to the mayonnaise and add hot sauce to taste. Mix well and taste to adjust hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup aioli.
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Asian Apple Slaw

For the slaw:

  • 2 cups red cabbage
  • 1 cup green cabbage
  • 1 1/2 Granny Smith apples
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 beet, peeled
  • 3 green onions
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Shred the cabbage. Slice into thin strips (or julienne) the apples, carrots and beet. Dice the green onions. In a large bowl, toss everything together and add the chopped cilantro.

To make the dressing, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, olive oil and sugar or honey. (The recipe makes way more dressing than is needed for this batch of slaw. Store in a tightly-covered jar in the refrigerator.) Add dressing, to taste, and toss well.

Makes about 4 servings.
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Bacon Jam

  • 1 pound bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or more to taste), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. In the same pan, add the red onion, chili, garlic, salt and pepper to the bacon drippings and cook 5-6 minutes. Add apple cider, maple syrup, sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine.

Add the bacon back to the pan and cook for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has reduced a bit and the mixture looks sticky and thick. Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.

Makes about 8 servings.
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Homemade Potato Chips

  • 2 medium Yukon Gold or Idaho potatoes, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 F. Using a mandoline or other handheld slicer, slice the potatoes in 1/8-inch slices into a bowl and immediately toss with the oil. Lightly season with salt and spread the slices into a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake until the chips are golden brown, for about 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and then lightly season with salt and pepper. For maximum crispness, transfer the chips to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 6 servings.
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