Saturday, February 5, 2011

BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Peppers

This is a busy restaurant cook's "eat while standing on the feet" style sandwich!
     I once worked in a very busy barbecue restaurant for one year.  I was only in it for the money at that time.  All of the cooks got 80 to 105 hours per week at that BBQ restaurant.  The restaurant paid us overtime rate for anything over 40 hours per week and double time for hours over 80 per week.  I was making nearly $60,000 a year by just cooking barbecue.  For BBQ cooking, that was good money.  If you think that sounds great, then think again!
     We had a 2 hour waiting line of customers that started at 10:00AM in the morning and the waiting line lasted till almost 10:00PM at night.  We also cooked for the BBQ catering trucks, BBQ delivery and the BBQ to-go business at the restaurant.  That BBQ restaurant was a gold mine!  We smoked beef, pork, chicken and ribs 24 hours a day.  We did much of the kitchen prep work in the midnight hours.  This sounds like a great BBQ restaurant for a money making cook to work in.  
     Now the flip side of the story!  The restaurant was located in south Florida by the Everglades.  The kitchen had no air conditioning.  Florida humidity ranges between 85% to 97% indoors during the summertime.  Florida summer temperatures range between 88º and 105º.  The BBQ restaurant kitchen was filled with smoke and heat from open flame gas grills, char grills, ovens, a huge open pit with a chimney and smoke from the gigantic wood burning meat smokers.  The temperature was 125º to 140º degrees on the main cooking line.  Uscooks had to drink a pitcher of water once every 30 minutes or we would pass out from heat exhaustion!
     With that much humidity in the air, the human body's sweat never evaporates and the body never cools down.  It was like cooking in a very hot smokey sauna!  Actually, it was more like cooking BBQ in hell!  All of us cooks developed incredible stamina and none of us had any body fat after working in those conditions.  
     Honestly, the restaurant should have been closed down for many health code and employee workplace violations.  We never had a restaurant inspector enter the building in that BBQ restaurant.  The Florida restaurant inspection system was very corrupt at that time.  You might say that the old saying "The best health code inspection system that money can buy" applied to this restaurant.  That business kept on serving tons of BBQ everyday and the working conditions were slaving in hell.  
     The cooks were limited to what they could eat as employees.  There was nothing but BBQ to chose from.  Some of us started getting creative with what we had.  That was when one of the cooks made this BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  When asked how I wanted mine to be cooked,  I responded by saying "I want my grilled cheese and BBQ pork sandwich with grilled bell peppers!"  We never sold this grilled sandwich to the customers in the dining room.  It was a very nice sandwich that a cook created for the other cooks in the restaurant kitchen!  
     The house BBQ sauce was a Chicago style sweet BBQ sauce.  The chopped pork was made from the leftover slow smoked pork shoulder meat scraps.  Smoked pork shoulder is hard to duplicate in a home kitchen, so I made this recipe blog version with roasted boneless country style rib meat.  Country style ribs are an American cut of pork shoulder from just ahead of the rib cage.  Country style ribs have very little fat and the meat shreds very easily after smoking or roasting.  That is the perfect cut of pork for a BBQ pork sandwich!  
     Chicago Style Sweet BBQ Sauce:
     This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of sweet Chicago style BBQ sauce!  The proportions of the ingredients do change slightly for making larger batches of this sauce!  Small adjustments must be made, so tasting is important.  Start small, before you go big, when it comes to making a BBQ sauce for the first time.  There is nothing worse than having a large amount of BBQ sauce in the refrigerator that you may not like.  I personally do not like sweet Chicago style BBQ sauces, but I make them the way they are supposed to taste.  That is called BBQ integrity!
     Heat 1 cup of water over medium low heat in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of brown sugar.
     Add 3 ounces of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.  
     When the sauce starts to gently simmer, taste it with a spoon.  It should taste sweet with a tiny amount of tangy flavor for the finish.  (Adjust the flavor if necessary)
     This is just the thin base of the sauce!  
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/3 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 1/4 cup of ketchup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ancho chili powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 2 teaspoons of coriander.
     Add 3 tablespoons of paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (Do not add too much cayenne.  This is supposed to be a sweet BBQ sauce.)
     Add a little bit of sea salt and black pepper.  
     Simmer and reduce the sauce gently over low heat, till it becomes a medium thin BBQ sauce consistency.  The sauce should be a rich looking rusty brown color with a slightly reddish tint.  The sauce should easily coat the back of a spoon.  The sauce should be sweet, with no hot chile flavor and a minimum of tangy flavor.  
     Set the sauce aside. 
     Sandwich Style BBQ Pork:
     This recipe makes enough pork for 2 sandwiches!
     Roasted pork or slow smoked pork scraps are good for this recipe.
     If no roasted pork scraps are available, then very slow roast 10 ounces of boneless pork country ribs in a 275º oven.
     Baste the meat occasionally with this mixture:
     - 1 ounce of the Chicago style sweet BBQ sauce
     - 5 ounces of water
     When the pork becomes fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
     Shred small chunks of the roasted pork by hand.
     Coarsely chop the shredded pork meat.  
     Place the chopped shredded pork into a small sauce pot.
     Add just enough of the Chicago Style BBQ sauce to minimally coat the pork with sauce.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Stir the BBQ pork occasionally as it heats up to a serving temperature.
     Keep the BBQ pork warm over very low heat.  
     BBQ Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Peppers:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 small handful of wide green bell pepper strips.
     Saute till the peppers become tender.
     Keep the grilled peppers warm on a stove top.  
     Brush 2 slices of bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Brush the hot pan with a little bit of unsalted butter.
     Place the bread slices in the pan.
     Place some thin sliced cheese on the bread.  (I used swiss cheese for the sandwich in the pictures.  Cheddar, muenster or provolone cheese are also good choices.)
     Grill the sandwich halves, till they become toasted golden brown and the cheese has melted.
     Set the two sandwich halves on a cutting board.
     Place about 4 ounces of the BBQ pork on one half of the sandwich.
     Place the grilled peppers on the other half sandwich.  
     Set the grilled pepper half of the sandwich on top of the BBQ half.
     Cut the sandwich in half.
     Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish with parsley sprigs and pickles.  
     This sandwich really is a pleasure to eat.  The sweet Chicago style BBQ pork is such a comfortable flavor.  The melted cheese on the sandwich is such a simple pleasure.  The grilled bell peppers give this sandwich a nice flavor and a lighter feel.  This is a nice change from the typical standard BBQ pork on a hamburger bun style sandwich.
     Now for my take on Chicago style BBQ sauce!  I really do not like sweet BBQ sauces.  I am from the south and southerners like tangy and spicy flavors!  To me, Chicago style sweet BBQ sauce is just as appealing as mixing ketchup and grape jelly together and calling it BBQ sauce!
     The reason that the BBQ restaurant down by the Everglades chose Chicago style sweet  BBQ sauce, was because the clientele was mostly snowbirds from the midwest.  That BBQ restaurant sure did empty a lot of midwestern tourist wallets with that expensive sweet tasting BBQ!  Money is the name of the BBQ game!  Yum!  ...  Shawna                    


  1. Thank you for sharing. Have you ever tried bbq delivery in Chicago, IL? They can bring you a taste of BBQ all year round. They have a great selection of grilled deliciousness available.

    1. Nope. I have done so much BBQ cooking in my lifetime, that I rarely order BBQ from a restaurant. I'll do a rack of baby backs with this Chicago BBQ sauce sometime soon. This sauce was designed for baby back ribs.

  2. I appreciate all of the information that you have shared. Thank you for the hard work!
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