Just the idea of a bone-in pork chop sandwich baffles some of the die-hard foodies at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. I have seen Uptown noses instantly pointed in the air at the very mention of it.
G. Andrew Boyd, The Times-Picayune
Times-Picayune Food editor Judy Walker loads up the condiments on another one of Linda Green's pork chop sandwiches at the New Orleans Jazz Fest Friday, May 6, 2011.
But the humble creation -- two slices of white bread around a thinly sliced and floured deep-fried chop -- has a devout following.
The sandwich may not have the rustic cachet of the cochon de lait po-boy or the seafood glamor that is the soft-shell crab po-boy, but it has many fans.
That would include Richard "Rick" Isolda, a Philadelphia lawyer, who ate five of them during the first three days of the festival last weekend.
"On a good day, I skip breakfast and get two of them instead of just one," Isolda said. "I usually end up at the Jazz and Heritage Stage, right there" where the sandwiches are sold from the booth of Miss Linda's Catering. "If you've got a bad hangover, you can hit that sandwich, and that ya ka mein, old sober, is right there, and for dessert the mango freeze. You go two steps and you've got a complete meal at Jazz Fest."
Isolda and his wife are 20-year festival veterans and love New Orleans so much that they have recreated a house ("as much as we could") that he photographed on Esplanade Ave. in their Philadelphia suburb of Riverside, New Jersey. Isolda has dined around the world, and can talk knowledgeably about most of the food at Jazz Fest.
"We don't get that stuff up here. That's the whole point," Isolda said in a phone interview after the Fest fact. "It's hard to explain to certain Northerners up here why you would eat a pork chop sandwich with the bone in it. You eat around the thing. You take out the bone, you take out the flavor."
"It's so simple," said Steve Zahn as the actor bit into one on Thursday afternoon. "It's really good," said Nate Lewis of Seattle, as he, too, sampled his first one ever.
The guys were standing next to the booth where Linda Green will sell about 4,000 of them during the seven days of the festival. On the counter are condiments in thin-tipped bottles, so customers can apply judicious amounts of mayonnaise, Creole mustard and/or catsup to personal taste.
Times-Picayune Food editor Judy Walker interviews Linda Green of Miss Linda's Catering about her signature pork chop sandwich at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Inside the booth, a cook tosses the chops in a tub of flour before lowering them into the deep fryer, where the chops tend to twist like thin-cut catfish filets.
"Mine are thin," Linda Green said. "They're much better fried thin than thick. Thick would still be raw and I'm not going to kill nobody."
One secret of the sandwich is the seasoning in the flour, Green confirmed.
"You've got to season a pork chop. (Customers) want to taste," she said. This year, the sandwiches, and the ya ka mein and bread pudding she sells, are all dedicated to a dear friend who worked in Green's booth and died in February, Emanuel "Ricky" Summers.
The portability of the sandwich is also part of its appeal. The sandwich is inserted into a paper sleeve, neat and tidy to transport and eat, and the bread acts as an insulator to keep the meat inside it warm.
Local food maven and host of "Louisiana Eats," Poppy Tooker, has taken to carrying one around in her handbag during the festival.
"They are crazy good," Tooker said. "And they should be the required breakfast at Tales of the Cocktail because if you're going to have a big day of imbibing, it's the perfect foundation.'
Plus, she said, she likes to joke that "If there's a pork chop sandwich in my purse, it must be Jazz Fest!"
Tooker learned this trick from her friend Michelle Nugent, food director at the festival, who might have a sandwich at any given time. Nugent thought the festival needed more Louisiana street foods.
"I used to go to some of the zydeco festivals in southwest Louisiana," Nugent said. "My favorite was the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco festival in Plaisance and I kind of glommed on to the fact you could get a fried pork chop with the bone in it between two pieces of white bread with a little mayo on it.
"It was heaven because you didn't have to think about it. It was yummy. And I have a thing for bones.
"Several years ago, the people who were (vendors) before Miss Linda were doing a soul food plate. I suggested they do a fried pork chop sandwich. They thought I was crazy out of my brain. I said, 'Take a leap of faith with me.' And people love it."
When those vendors elected not to return to the festival, Nugent "offered it to Miss Linda because I knew she would do a great job with it."
When Green sees Nugent on a festival morning, she automatically hands one of the sandwiches to Nugent.
"One day I was working with one of fellows out here on one of those scary bad weather days, and he said, 'I'm so hungry I can't stand it.' I pulled it out. 'As a matter of fact, I have a pork chop sandwich.'"