You've Got To Try Cochon Butcher's Awesome Bacon Melt
Since a very filling trip to New Orleans in February, I can't stop thinking about Cochon Butcher's crave-able signature sandwich. It's so simple -- just a few ingredients, really -- but attempts to recreate it at home were a big FAIL. Huge high fives to chef Stephen Stryjewski for generously sharing the juicy details on what goes into making this memorable sandwich, though I'd much rather devour it where it was invented.
The Buckboard Bacon Melt was one of the first big hits when Butcher made its debut in 2009, as a small shop next to the now-landmark Cochon in NOLA's Warehouse District, a short walk from The French Quarter. "Necessity is the mother of invention, and we had a lot of bacon and a lot of collard greens when we came up with this one," said Stryjewski, who owns the restaurant with partners Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt.
It all begins with a house-made "buckboard" bacon, named for the pioneers who cured pork and hung it from their buckboard wagons while heading west. "We use pork shoulder, which means it's leaner, like 20 percent fat," he said. It's cured about 10 days, in a seasoning mixture that includes a fair amount of molassas, the sticky sweetness acting as a counterpoint to the bitterness of the blanched and squeezed dry collards and the bracing acidity of pickled banana peppers. The shoulder is smoked over oak and pecan wood before being thinly sliced and cooked through, but not crispy. "It would be an entirely different sandwich if it was crispy," the chef explained.
Finally, because cheese makes everything taste better, Tillamook aged white cheddar is the gooey topper that unites the ingredients on sturdy sourdough sandwich bread toasted in between a panini grill. "In the beginning, we did had such limited space, we were cooking everything in either a 14-inch pizza oven or on a panini press," he said.
Is your mouth watering yet? Ready to DIY? If you're not willing and able to cure and smoke your own buckboard bacon, try using a brown sugar cured bacon instead, Stryjewski suggests, but remember to cook it lightly.
Best sandwich ever? It's definitely in the Top 5.