Apr 9, 2012

Open-face Pork Panini with Pickled Eggplants

My (former) mother-in-law passed me down a killer recipe for pickled eggplants. They still are my favorite, but are made the old fashioned way. That means a rather time consuming process. Worth every second, since they keep for a long time.

Eggplants are a favorite food. They transform themselves completely when cooked. I can never get over that mind-blowing smoky flavor when they are roasted. My second favorite way to eat them is pickled. Simply extraordinary. Perfect when your taste buds just need something vinegar-y. Not just salty. It happens to me a lot. 
Maybe it's a family thing, since my brother had the same cravings. We used to laugh about it while eating a tomato salad with lots of vinegar just to sop bread in the left-over juices and satisfy our ridiculous cravings. I'm probably not alone here as vinegar potato chips are so popular. Not in this country, mind you.

This recipe is perfect, not only because it makes a killer sandwich, but because the bread, toasted, and topped with just the eggplants is heaven. And comes together in minutes; that is, if you have the olive oil bread. What's the freezer for? Have a few slices of this amazing bread in your freezer and you're a few toasting minutes away from great sandwiches. Or bruschettas. Or a panzanella with the most incredible croutons. I'll make that soon, before tomatoes disappear.

slightly adapted from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2005

If you want sandwiches with two slices of bread, I suggest slicing the pork thinner and adjusting the amount of cheese and eggplants. Otherwise, it will be too large to eat.

Makes 6 servings


6 Tbs olive oil
2 small eggplants, cut into rounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
1 Tbs minced scallions or chives
1 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
One 1-pound pork tenderloin, whole
1 small red onion, cut in half and sliced
¼ cup white wine
6 slices Olive oil bread
8 oz (225g) Fontina cheese, sliced


In a medium bowl, mix vinegar, scallion, parsley, garlic and 2 Tbs olive oil.
In a large skillet heat 1 Tbs olive oil until shimmering. Add half of the eggplant slices in a single layer and fry over moderately high heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with another Tbs olive oil and rest of eggplant. Transfer to bowl with vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room tº at least 10 minutes.
In same skillet heat remaining 2 Tbs olive oil, add pork and sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add onion, cook for 1 minute and add white wine, deglazing bottom of pan. Cook for about 5 minutes for medium rare. This will depend on the thickness of the pork. Set aside.
Preheat grill setting  of oven to 400ºF/200ºC
Grill slices of bread on both sides, careful not to burn.
Cut pork in slices across the grain, arrange a few pieces, dividing equally, on top of the eight bread slices. Do not forget the juices since they moisten the bread in the best way.Top pork with fontina cheese and grill for a minute or two until the cheese melts. Transfer to serving plates, top with red onion and slices of eggplant.
Eat immediately.
Serves 6.


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