This sandwich idea was either born from a dream or hatched by a mention on a Food Network show.
I wish I could credit where the idea for this sandwich came from, but I can’t totally remember. I think it might have been something I heard someone speak about on one of Michael Symon’s shows on Food Network or the Cooking Channel. I just remember hearing about crispy pork belly topped with pickled cherries and I got excited and soon after, wrote it down in my sandwich notes.
Or maybe I dreamed it!?
I tried to search for the episode that this might have appeared on, but I couldn’t find it. That particular combination doesn’t seem to show up, so I just started to assume it was my own imagination. Then I decided to make it myself. I googled pickled cherry recipes and hit the store for a few pounds of cherries and pork belly and then I got to work.
As always, first, we need some bread and for that purpose, I went for a roll that has a lot of texture.
Dutch crunch sandwich rolls
For a roll that could match the flavors and textures in this sandwich of my dreams, I chose to make Dutch crunch rolls. I have written about this bread recipe a couple of times in the past. Once was my first meatloaf sandwich post and the second time was my pesto chicken sandwich. Both of those were using the crunch of the bread to accentuate softer sandwich ingredients, but in this case, I hoped that the crunchy roll would pair with other crunchy ingredients.
If you’ve never heard of them, Dutch crunch rolls are a very popular type of bread sold in San Francisco, California, but they weren’t invented there. According to the internet, this style of bread was most likely invented in the Netherlands and it has the name tiger bread there and in other parts of the world. The US grocery store chain called Wegman’s sells something similar and calls their type of bread “Marco Polo bread.”
I’ve yet to have a true Dutch crunch roll from San Francisco, so my recipe is certainly not a traditional one. My recipe creates a roll with a super soft interior and a craggy and crunchy exterior. The top crust of the rolls is extra crunchy when fresh, but they do soften after they have been stored for a day or two.
How does Dutch crunch get crunchy?
To get the craggy and crunchy top on these rolls, you mix rice flour, oil, sugar, yeast, and water into a glue-like paste and carefully paint it on top of the risen rolls right before baking. The goal is to have a thin layer of paste-like substance painted on top of each bun. This pasty layer will caramelize, crack, and crunchify a bit inside the oven leaving you with a very fun, unique-looking, and crunchy top of each roll.
Here’s my Dutch crunch sandwich roll recipe. It requires a few extra ingredients that you might not have in your pantry, but they should all be available at most major supermarkets.
Great crunch and a soft interior on rolls with a sweet and flavorful crust make for very good sandwiching. This recipe requires three ingredients that you might not have, but it's well worth the investment. Dutch crunch is also known as Tiger Bread in some parts of the world.Get Recipe
Fennel and apple slaw
This apple and fennel addition to the sandwich will bring some big crunch. Fennel is pretty crunchy on its own but apples also help to bring some texture and a contrasting flavor to this experience.
There is some citrus juice in the “dressing” for this condiment which not only keeps the apple from turning brown, but it also will soften the fennel as it rests in the liquid. This is helpful, but the slaw is still going to bring a big crunch to this sandwich. I didn’t make a stand-alone recipe for this slaw, but I added all the ingredients and instructions to the full sandwich recipe below.
As I said, this quick slaw has tons of flavor from the apples and a lot of crunch in the fennel, but the dressing also has mustard which is pork belly’s best friend. Apple and Dijon mustard work well together in this slaw.
FYI: this is not a long-lasting slaw. The citrus in the fresh orange juice keeps the apple from turning brown, but it also starts to degrade all the parts in this slaw as well. After about three days, everything that was crunchy started to get a bit more soggy.
These cherries turned out better than I expected. They would be great in a bowl on the side of a charcuterie board because as I learned during the eating of this sandwich, the tartness from the vinegar and natural sweetness in the cherries balances fatty meat well.
For about 20 minutes last weekend, I considered pitting all my cherries by hand without a pitter. After trying one or two, I regretted that decision and broke down and bought a cherry pitter. Pitting 2+ pounds of cherries would have been a nightmare otherwise. Here’s the cherry pitter I bought.
Just like Alton Brown, I do not typically like unitaskers in the kitchen, but for around 11 dollars, I think this purchase was worth it.
Unlike a cucumber pickle, you do need to cook the cherries a tiny bit in the hot brine to soften them slightly. And then after they are jarred up, I pulled a few out when I was making this sandwich to chop them up a little bit before adding them on top of the pork.
My addition of pickled cherries into this sandwich did require a quick chop. The cherries are soft enough that I think you could probably just put them on the sandwich whole, and they’d be ok, but I just wanted to make sure they didn’t roll off or squirt out and the benefit of chopping them up also meant that 7 or 8 cherries that were chopped up covered a bit more real estate on the sandwich.
Here’s the pickled cherry recipe that I came up with. It’s a great, flavor-packed cherry addition that will be a good addition to many deli meat sandwiches.
Crispy pork belly
I’ve written about pork belly two times so far for this sandwich blog, but this one was the most simple preparation. This version of pork belly was simply covered with a dry rub of Cajun spices and baked for a couple of hours at a low temperature and then baked for just a short period of time at a higher oven temperature to crisp up the skin.
This recipe works whether you have a piece of skin on pork belly or not. It just means that you can skip the last bake at a higher temperature.
Pork belly prepared in this manner results in meat that is a lot like bacon. The flavors are very similar, but this type of meat is much softer than bacon and it is obviously much thicker. It still has some of the same streaky fat that is fully cooked through, but the stove-top reheating process will render some of that fat a bit more. If you want to render it a lot more, you can cook it for longer on the stove right before adding to the sandwich.
The pork bellies and pickled cherries sandwich
This sandwich is a bomb of texture and flavor.
Here’s the recipe for my pork belly and pickled cherry sandwich. Try these cherries even if you’re not going to make the whole sandwich. They’re fun.
Pairing tender pork belly with tart pickled cherries and a crunchy apple and fennel slaw will lead you to a fantastic sandwich experience. Use a Dutch crunch sandwich roll for an even more exciting experience.
- 2 pounds fresh cherries, destemmed and pitted
- 1 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 1⁄2 cup water
- 1⁄2 cup brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 pounds pork belly, skin on
- 3 to 4 tablespoons Cajun or creole seasoning blend (view recipe)
- 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 apple, julienned
- 2 small fennel bulbs, julienned
- 2 tablespoons of the green fennel fronds, chopped
- 1 6-inch bread roll
- mayonnaise and/or mustard
- 4 to 6 slices of pork belly (from above)
- apple fennel slaw (from above)
- pickled cherries (from above)
Pickled cherries: de-stem and pit all your cherries.
Add all ingredients except cherries to a medium pot over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir a few times to make sure the sugar has dissolved.
Add all the cherries to the liquid and simmer for 5 minutes or until the cherries soften.
After 5 minutes remove the pot from the heat and allow everything to cool for 5 or 10 minutes. Once the cherries have cooled a little, carefully transfer the cherries and all the liquid into mason jars or another container with a lid. Allow the closed container full of cherries and liquid to cool on the counter for 2 hours.
Refrigerate the cherries for up to three months.
For the pork belly: when you are ready to cook, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F (148 C).
Remove the pork belly from its packaging and dry the skin very well with paper towels. Cut shallow slices in the skin about a quarter inch apart, just cut through the skin and no deeper. Coat each piece of pork belly with the Cajun seasoning.
Place the pork belly on a sheet pan or baking dish, skin side up, and cook for 2.5 hours.
After 2.5 hours, remove the pork belly from the oven and raise the heat on the oven to 500 degrees F (260 C).
Move the pork belly to a wire rack, set it over a lined baking sheet, and place it in the oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. This is meant to crisp up the skin.
Remove the pork belly from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. If you want thinner slices, you can cool the pork belly in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 hours until the meat is firmer.
Apple and fennel slaw: add the apple cider vinegar, orange juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. This is the dressing for your slaw. Taste the dressing to see if it needs salt or pepper and add some to your taste.
Add the julienned apple and fennel to the bowl with the dressing and toss to combine. Add a couple of tablespoons of the diced-up green fennel fronds and toss everything again. Store the slaw in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Sandwich assembly: place 4 to 6 slices of pork belly into a medium pan over medium heat and allow the pork slices to cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side to warm up.
Slice a six-inch sandwich roll and spread mayonnaise and/or mustard on the bottom roll.
Add the slices of pork belly. Top the pork with 3 or 4 forks full of apple fennel slaw and then top the slaw with 6 to 8 pickled cherries that have been lightly chopped.
Top the sandwich with the top roll and serve.
Check back next week for more sandwiches
Check back next Monday to read about a new sandwich I possibly haven’t made yet!
If you want to know more about what happens behind the scenes of my sandwich blog or if you want a chance to change our sandwich adventure direction you can join my Patreon community.
If you want to subscribe, that’s a free option for emails into your inbox every week.