Steamed Bun Pork Sliders

In the wake of a forgettable week 3 of the football season which saw the transgressions of the Minnesota Vikings result in a terrible blight bestowed upon the Eat Drink Cheer farm, there was but one bright spot; some impromptu pork sliders.

While waiting 12 hours for some sous vide pork belly to cook, I found myself in the midst of an unexpected epicurean epiphany. The signs had been there all along; from Friday’s trip to Off The Grid where I enjoyed some of Chairman Bao’s incredible Pork Belly Buns and Big Chef Tom’s (pork) Belly Burgers (which were beyond amazing), to an episode of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives featuring some very tasty looking pork cutlet sandwiches, to the 7 pound pork butt Stephanie brought home because it was on sale for $0.99 a pound – the universe demanded that I make some pork sliders, and as we all know – when the universe calls, you answer.

Now I was a bit skeptical of using pork shoulder for this application as I tend to favor long, slow cooking for a cut with this much connective tissue, however I thought that with proper butchering (minimize gain length and cut around obvious rough spots) and a good deal of pounding, it just might work. Happily, I was right.

This recipe is really just an impromptu mix of some of my favorite flavors that I wasn’t too sure would work together, but came together nicely. Feel free to replace the Fresnos with birds eye, jalapeno, or whatever chiles you prefer. I used them simply because I’d picked up a bunch earlier in the day and liked the color. The important part here is the combination of the buns, the mayo, and the fry. These buns (which can be picked up for $2.50 for a 24 pack at your local asian grocery) have a sweet chewyness that makes almost anything great, and when combined with a nice, crispy, salty, spicy pork cutlet and some luxurious kewpie mayo, you’ve got a game-time snack that’s hard to beat.

Warning – if you make these with guests over, you may find that you miss the game due to the demands of an insatiable crowd. You simply can’t make enough of these.

10 1 Oz Pork cutlets (cut thin and pounded out to ~1/8 inch from either the butt or tenderloin)
Steamed Buns – 1 package
2 Scallions – greens only – thinly sliced
1 Spicy Dill Pickles – thinly sliced
2 Fresno Chiles – thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons Kewpie Mayonaise to taste (~1 teaspoon per slider for a mayonaise lover like myself)

Dredge and Coat
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Paprika
2 Teaspoons Cayenne
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Fennel Rub (recipe follows)
2 Tablespoons Aleppo Pepper
Vegetable Oil (For frying)

Fennel Rub
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoon freshly ground fennel seeds

Begin by preparing a steaming setup, and steaming the buns until warm. About 2 minutes once the steam starts.

Heat approximately 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep, heavy bottomed pot (I use a 5.5 quart Le Cruset French oven). Combine first 7 Dredge ingredients in a dry, medium plastic container with sealable lid to create your coating station. Crack and whisk the eggs in a small dish large enough to dip and coat your pork cutlets. Sprinkle your cutlets with a generous pinch of fennel rub on each side, and follow with a sprinkle of aleppo pepper to taste. Add about half the cutlets to the container filled with coating, seal the lid tightly, and shake until the cutlets are covered in coating. Lightly shake off loose coating, and dredge the coated cutlets in the egg wash before returning to the coating container to shake and add a second layer of coating. Shake off the excess coating and place on a cooling rack to await frying.

Once your cutlets are all coated, add to the hot oil to fry until golden brown and crispy. About 3 – 6 minutes. Once the cutlets are done, remove and let cool on a cooling rack (do not use paper towels as they will ruin the crust).

Remove buns from the steamer and gently open. Assemble by adding mayo on the bottom of the bun, followed by 2 slices of pickle. Place your pork cutlet on top of the pickles, followed by 2 slices of chile and a generous sprinkle of scallion. Serve hot.

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