The mound of Berkshire pork sat glistening in a tub of its own juices, as it had for the past nine hours, while Jason Sobocinski pulled off chunks as easily as petals from a flower.
Sobocinski, co-owner of Ordinary, a new spot on Chapel Street across from the Green, was preparing a decadent grilled cheese and pulled pork sandwich called “The Butt.” (Read more about the opening of Ordinary here.)
The meat, he explained, had cooked overnight at Caseus, the Whitney Avenue restaurant and cheese shop that he also co-owns. After the whole thing was pulled, he would strain the juice—“basically liquefied pork fat”—and add some of it back to keep the meat moist. “We’re not going to let this juice go to waste,” he said.
“And, uh,” he added, popping a dripping chunk of pork into his mouth, “it’s good.”
Having pulled more than enough pork for one portion, Sobocinski then ladled some clarified butter onto the hot griddle and started frying the foundation of the sandwich: a few irregular hunks of cheese between two small squares of country white bread. Next to that he added a generous heap of the pork and a splash of the fatty juice.
While the sandwich ingredients sizzled, Sobocinski, who said he has been working in restaurants since he was 14, mused on the finer aspects of grilled cheese construction.
“I think one of the things that people sometimes do wrong is pick one type of cheese, and maybe it’s not the best melter,” he said. “Some cheeses may be great for eating, but don’t work for melting” because of factors including aging and the way the curd is cut.
At Ordinary, each sandwich contains several different cheeses that are combined, along with cream cheese, in a stand mixer.
“I get a different flavor that I like from the different cheeses,” Sobocinski explained. “The Gouda in there gives it a sweetness, the Comté gives it a little bit of onion-ness, the Gruyère gives some shellfish and some broccoli, the cheddar gives some sharpness, the provolone and Emmentaler give some stretch.”
“You’re looking for all these different components—flavor and texture—and then you’re also looking to make sure that they’re all blended together nicely so you have a good consistency.”
Sobocinski paused before stating the obvious. “We think a lot about grilled cheese,” he said.
A few minutes of browning later, it was time for assembly. Sobocinski opened the gooey sandwich slowly, like an old encyclopedia, and added the pork. Trying to keep it from spilling out around the edges would have been futile.
A slice of tomato and a sprinkling of salt and pepper finished the sandwich, which Sobocinski placed in a paper tray and surrounded with cornichons, a dollop of grainy mustard, and a dipping cup of house-made barbecue sauce.
Sobocinski served me the sandwich at the bar, and, as if concerned that my heart was too healthy, added a pair of piping hot, house-made peanut-butter-and-bacon cookies for dessert.
“A great finish to any lunch,” Sobocinski said. He was right. And after this particular lunch, I’d also recommend a nap.