I like to root for the underdog, don’t you? For example, JC was my favorite member of *NSYNC, not Justin. I like to see the Cleveland Browns win once in a while. And as far as Philly food goes, a good roast pork sandwich will get my vote over a cheesesteak any day. It seems most people outside of the Philadelphia area know of the famous Philly cheesesteak, but not so many know about the roast pork sandwiches. People! You’re missing out! I was once one of the uninitiated before I moved to the area. When I thought of shredded pork sandwiches, I thought of barbecue pulled pork. Philly-style roast pork is a different beast entirely. I became a convert with my first bite. Succulent, luscious chunks of pork with browned, crisp edges swim in savory broth that saturates the crusty bun. Topped with spicy banana peppers and sharp provolone cheese, it is a masterpiece of flavor and texture. Cheesesteaks are delicious, but roast pork is downright dreamy.
I love to make this Philly-style roast pork at home for a couple of reasons. Of course, it’s delicious. The house smells incredible as the pork slowly roasts in the oven. And OMG, the leftovers are divine and freeze really well. This is a great dish to make for a big game, tailgate or bonfire. It feeds an army, is hearty and delicious and can easily be made ahead. Meaning you are free to cheer on your team or catch on gossip.
While this recipe is simple, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure you maximize the deliciousness. First, it is really worth the extra 10 minutes to thoroughly brown the meat on all sides before it goes in the oven. Obviously you will want to pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels ahead of this step, to minimize splattering. Then get the oil good and hot and go at it. Next, since this recipe calls for a huge piece of meat, you’ll need a big cooking vessel. I used a 13 quart dutch oven. You could also use a roasting pan or even a 9×13 dish and cover with foil before putting it in the oven. If using either of these options, brown the meat in a very large skillet (unless your roasting pan is safe to use on the stovetop.) Finally, you cannot rush this. Check the pork after 3 hours, and if it shreds easily, it’s done. But if it doesn’t, just close the oven door for another hour and check it then. Cranking the heat too high will not do you any favors.
The Philly-style Italian roast pork sandwich is the kind of underdog I can really get behind. Now if Notre Dame could just pull out a win… There’s always this weekend!
Philly-Style Italian Roast Pork
6-7 lb pork shoulder (either boneless or bone-in)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cups white wine
1-2 cups water
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
For serving: sandwich rolls, banana peppers, provolone cheese, broccoli rabe
Pre-heat oven to 325.
Prepare pork shoulder. Pat dry and trim excess fat (lots of fat will remain, that is fine). Mix salt, Italian seasoning and black pepper together in small bowl. Rub salt/herb/pepper mixture over all sides of pork shoulder.
In large dutch oven or roasting pan on stovetop, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Carefully place pork in oil and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Once pork is browned, reduce heat to medium and add onions and garlic to pan and cook 2-3 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add white wine and enough water to bring liquid about 1/3 of the way up the pork. Place lid on dutch oven or cover top of roasting pan tightly with foil. Cook 3-4 hours, turning the pork once per hour. When turning the pork, add water sufficient to come 1/3 of the way up the pork if some has evaporated. Pork is ready when it shreds easily with a fork.
Once pork is done, shred with two forks and toss with pan juices and onions. Remove herb stems, large pieces of fat and bone, if a bone-in pork shoulder was used. Serve on toasted sandwich rolls with banana pepper rings and provolone cheese. Sandwich can also be topped with sautéed broccoli rabe, if desired.
If making roast pork head, shred and refrigerate in pan juices. Heat in crockpot on low and keep warm until serving.