The Breaded Pork Tenderloin (BPT), one of the most famous Midwestern sandwiches, is so popular that TWO flyover states lay claim to it—Indiana and Iowa. Both states are among the top pork producers (Iowa is number one and Indiana is in the top ten), so it’s no wonder that this fried and breaded testament to porcine deliciousness calls these two states home. I’m not going to get into an argument over which is the “real “ birthplace, though, living in Indiana, I’d vote for the Hoosier state. Allegedly, Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana, (between Fort Wayne and Muncie) is where it all began. Anyway, this sandwich is so beloved that it’s inspired driving tours and a blog dedicated to it, written by Rick Garrett.
The humble pig (and its ancestor, the wild boar) is not native to North America; rather, they stem (geographically) from Africa and Eurasia. Pig production in what is now the United States (or rather, the colonies prior to the end of the Revolutionary War), began with both Spanish (initially, Hernando de Soto) and English (e.g. Sir Walter Raleigh) explorers bringing pigs. But why Indiana or Iowa? Why the Midwest? As the population grew, so did the pig industry, spreading west as the colonies (and later, the United States) expanded its territory. Indeed, Cincinnati, Ohio was once called Porkopolis, owing to its hog slaughter industry. Today, the Midwest is geographically and climatologically well suited for pig production.
You can consider the breaded pork tenderloin to be the Midwest’s interpretation of the Wiener Schnitzel and you’d be correct. The Wiener (Vienna) Schnitzel is a veal cutlet, pounded thin, breaded, and fried, typically served with a wedge of lemon and some sort of potato product (fried, parsley potatoes, potato salad). That it’s made with pork here isn’t exactly heretical—order a schnitzel in Germany (or some other countries), for example, and you’d get pork, not veal. But these Euro-schnitzels aren’t sandwiches. Or, should I say, SANDWICHES (all caps intentional). You see, the BPT isn’t just some meat in a bun—it’s more involved than that. The tenderloin part must have an area at least twice that of the bun (see picture below).
It can’t just stick out a little—not if it’s a real BPT—it has to truly dwarf the bun. That massive overhang is part of the sandwich’s appeal. If you’ve never seen one, your jaw should drop.
As wonderful as the gargantuan-sized BPT is, sometimes it’s a bit much.* Granted, it is inimitably shareable, in a way (I’m imagining a set of three or four friends, all in different chairs, eating this single sandwich WITHOUT HAVING TO CUT IT UP BECAUSE THE PORK IS LARGE ENOUGH TO COVER THE ENTIRE TABLE). But let’s face it, folks, it makes for poor appetizers or snacks for a crowd. And while it tastes great, it’s MORE filling, not less. But fortunately, a slider version of this Hall-of-Fame sandwich is better suited for small bites fare. Therefore, I bring to you BPT sliders in my next post—all the taste, but a fraction of the mass.