What seemingly looks like a simple pork sandwich is described best by the name of the restaurant that made it famous, “Love at First Bite.” It has become the most popular bite at the New Orleans Jazzfest where I had my first experience with the Cochon de Lait. The sandwich is a fairly new phenomenon, but the Cochon de Lait is a Cajun tradition that dates back to when the first Acadians made their way to the Louisiana swamps and marshes. Translated into English, it means “Milk of the Pig.” The Cajuns don’t always make it into a sandwich or rarely make it from pork butts, rather, they slowly roast and smoke the whole hog over an open pit until it is undeniably tender. The French Cajuns’ way of saying really tender and juicy or creamy is lait or milk.
So back to the sandwich. It’s good, so good that the music line-up at the Jazzfest is secondary to linking up with that loving bite. A whole year would pass between these experiences until I decided to make them myself. I’ve had a few imitators, but they were just that, imitators. They failed to do things right. They made them in ovens or crock pots and added liquid smoke to get the effect, yuck! Last resort! The components seem simple, but simplicity often lies in the details and they missed the mark.
The sandwich is essentially pulled pork, a Creole mayonnaise, a tangy slaw and French bread. A lot of you out there can smoke a butt, so you’ll do fine, but making all the other elements requires the right ingredients, especially the bread. Poboys or sandwiches in New Orleans are always judged by the bread. Leidenheimer’s, Zip and Binder seem to be the gold standard. Luckily, most good grocery stores and bakeries make decent French bread, so you should be OK. Look for a crusty but not hard exterior and a soft inside. I serve mine with a Southern-style potato salad and Zapp’s Potato Chips. Your favorite potato salad and kettle chips will do.
Smoking pork in Louisiana is usually done with pecan wood, so if you can get it, use it. Otherwise, use what you like or what is local. Now enough talking, let’s do this.
Cochon de Lait
Figgy Piggy Rub
- 1.5 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 2 tsp ground Smoky Paprika
- 1 tsp ground annato chile (Achiote Molido or Recado)
- 1/4 cup cane sugar or light brown sugar
- 3 tsp granulated garlic
- 2 tsp granulated onion
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1 6 to 7 pound Boston Butt Bone-in Pork Shoulder
- 8 garic cloves
- 8 leaves flat leaf Italian parsley
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp Extra Hot Melinda's Hot Sauce you can use XXX, XXXX, red savina or garlic Melinda's
- 3 to 4 tbsp Figgy Piggy Rub see above
- 6 ounces apple cider vinegar in squirt bottle
Figgy's Creole Mayo
- 1 1/2 cups Mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp Creole mustard sub any whole grain spicy mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp prepared horseradish get the refrigerated strong version
- 2 tbsp green onions/scallions minced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp Extra Hot Melinda's Hot Sauce
- 1 pinch Kosher Salt
Figgy's Tangy Slaw
- 3 cups green cabbage thinly shedded about 1/2 a green cabbage
- 3 cups red cabbage thinly shedded about 1/2 a red cabbage
- 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp Kosher Salt plus anothe 1/2 teaspoon
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp raw cane sugar sub white sugar
- 2 tbsp Creole mustard sub any whole grain spicy mustard
- 1/4 tsp celery seed
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/3 cup expellar-pressed canola oil sub vegetable oil
- 1 tsp Extra Hot Melinda's Hot Sauce or more to taste
- 8 tbsp green onions minced 4 green onions
The Bread and sides
- 2 loaves Poboy bread or French Bread (see notes above) Preferably from New Orleans or sub with hoagie bread
- 2 bags Zapp's Potato chips
Make the Figgy Piggy Rub
- Every pit master has their own take on pork rubs and this is mine. It's named after my dearly departed Son, David aka Figgy. Since my family hails from Belize, I'm a fan of recado or annato powder or achiote molido. You can find it in most Latin sections of grocery stores or at your favorite Tienda. I feel it adds brightness and balance to the smoky paprika and spicy cayenne.
- Mix all the Figgy Piggy Rub together in a shaker with holes large enough to flow evenly, otherwise use a spoon and your hands.
Prepare the Butts
- I like to prep the butts the day or night before. It makes a difference because it allows the rub to penetrate the meat which also helps form a nice bark and deep flavor. It is not necessary but it is highly recommended.
- Mix olive oil and Melinda’s together well with a small whisk or fork.
- Make buttons by using a pairing knife, cut slits into the fat side of the pork butt deep enough to stuff a garlic clove into but never through the meat. Using a small spoon or squeeze bottle, fill the slits with with some of the oil mixture and push a parsley leaf and garlic clove into the slit to complete the “button.”
- Coat the entire butt with the Figgy Piggy Rub. place in a pan and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight for best results.
Make the Creole Mayo
- Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, green onions and cayenne in a small mixing bowl. Mash the garlic and salt to a paste with a mortar and pestle or use a meat tenderizing hammer. Add the garlic paste to the mayonnaise mixture and stir well. I like to put mine in a mason jar for effect. I also like to make a ham or turkey sandwich with it and then hide it in the back of the fridge until it’s time to serve.
Make the Tangy, Spicy Slaw
- Wilt the cabbage and red onions by tossing them with 2 tablespoons of salt. Place in a colander inside a bowl. After about an hour rinse the cabbage mixture well with cold water and then dry with a salad spinner. You can make the dressing the night before or while the slaw is sweating and wilting. Mix the Melinda’s pepper sauce vinegar, sugar, mustard, celery seeds, a teaspoon of black pepper and ½ a tsp of Kosher salt. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify the dressing to a creamy consistency, refrigerate until serving. Prior to serving, put the slaw mixture and green onions together and mix in the dressing a little at a time. You don’t want it overly creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
- Using your preferred smoker (stick burner, pellet, kamodo, electic) place Butts on for 6 ½ to 8 hours around 250-275 degrees.
- After about 4 hours when the fat starts to split on top and the bark is well formed, double wrap the butt in foil. Spray some apple cider vinegar on the foil and generously shake Melinda’s on as well. Place the butt on top and wrap. Place back on the smoker for another 2 ½ to 4 hours. They’re done when the butts jiggle or you can easily pierce with a fork.
- Remover the tender pork from the smoker, place in a pan still wrapped and rest for 15-30 minutes before pulling apart.
Assemble your Cochon du Lait Sandwich
- Cut the bread into 8 inch segments, slice down the center and toast in a preheated over at 350 degrees for a few minutes. Slather the Creole mayo on both sides. Lay down a healthy portion of the meat and put some slaw on top. place the top bun on. Put a side of potato salad and chips and maybe a few pickles on your plate and now you're ready to fall in love.