Sandwich-making is an art. Too much stuff in the sandwich and it falls apart. Not enough, and it’s unsatisfying. The bread must complement the ingredients, and condiments mustn’t overpower the meat and-or vegetables. It might seem like the easiest thing in the world, but it isn’t.
Fortunately, Russ Flewelling, a culinary arts instructor at United Technology Center in Bangor, is a master of the sandwich. So much so that he won first place at the first-ever Best Sandwich in Eastern Maine Competition, held Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor by Sysco Northern New England, the food distribution company. The event was part of Sysco’s annual food show, which showcases purveyors from across the state.
Flewelling’s winning sandwich was a Summer Pork Sandwich, a delightful mix of tangy pickles, sweet apples and savory roast pork on homemade foccacia. It’s a deceptively light, flavorful concoction perfect for a warm afternoon picnic.
“My main objective was that I wanted to do pork,” said Flewelling. “Not a lot of sandwiches have pork, besides a Cuban or a pulled pork sandwich. So instead of doing a hot sandwich, I did a cold summer sandwich.”
Flewelling started out with shaved cold pork loin, and knew he wanted to use his special bread.
“I’ve been making this foccacia for years, and I know a lot of people really enjoy it,” he said. “You could use any nice, good quality bread, though.”
To complement the savory roast pork, he whipped up a slightly unorthodox cole slaw.
“Pork and cole slaw go together, but I didn’t want to do regular cole slaw,” he said. “So I opted for spicy pickles and apples, since pork and apple go so well together. I pretty much took all the things I like and started to build a good sandwich.”
There were 15 other sandwiches in the competition, which was judged based on flavor, presentation and creativity. The entries ranged from Gott’s Store in Southwest Harbor, which made a mean steak bomb, to Giacomo’s in Bangor, with its special Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Mayo.
Winners in each individual category included Jorgensen’s Cafe in Waterville, which won in the presentation category with Chef Ginny Bolduc’s Curry Chicken Sandwich, a spicy, savory, colorful chicken salad with raisins and apples, served on a light, buttery croissant. The creativity award went to Alexis Purdunn of Jordan’s in Bar Harbor, with her wildly unique Blackened Pulled Pork and Mac & Cheese Sandwich, topped with caramelized onions and lemon basil aioli and served on homemade bread.
The judges for the Best Sandwich in Eastern Maine competition were Melanie Brooks of Bangor Metro Magazine, Todd Simcox of WABI-TV, and the writer of this article, Emily Burnham of the Bangor Daily News.
Summertime Pork Sandwich
8 slices good quality bread, sliced ½-inch thick
1 to 1¼ pound shaved roast pork, store-bought or homemade
2 apples, peeled and julienned
2 small-to-medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and julienned
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup water
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup mayonnaise
4 cloves roasted garlic
If you are roasting your own pork, make it ahead of time. If not, slice it extremely thin or, if you have access to a meat shaver, shave it. To make slaw, combine the julienned apple and sliced shallot into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar and red pepper to a boil, then pour the hot liquid over the apple and shallots. Cover and refrigerate until cool; then add cucumbers. While the slaw is cooling, combine the mayo and roasted garlic in a blender or food processor and puree until fully combined. Spread mayo on both sides of bread, add 4-5 ounces of pork and top with a generous pile of slaw. Serve cold.