When I first heard of Shana Martin, the Founder and Owner of the local Anna Mae’s Southern Bread Co., I knew we would connect. We are both lovers of food, transplants to North Carolina with passion for local culture and women hoping to leverage our grandmother’s legacies. As a lover of stories, her’s falls in the foodie fairytale category. She is as sweet and her successes are as scratch-made as the Southern Sourdough rolls at Anna Mae’s Southern Bread Co.
After an email introduction, Shana invited me to visit her small bakery in the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship to take part in the rolling and hear more about her accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned.
Anna Mae Southern Bread Co. makes three varieties of Shana’s grandmother’s bread recipe – Original, Cheddar & Chive and my favorite, Sweet Potato & Molasses. Shana showed me the ropes of her operation from feeding the yeast starter each morning, to operating the new industrial equipment she purchased in anticipation of her gig with The Fresh Market, to hand rolling and weighing each ounce of sticky dough. While we chatted, I attempted (and she kindly corrected) forming each roll into perfect clouds to be sent for the second rise before baking.
While effortlessly multi-tasking she shared her story of reconnecting with her, now husband, moving to North Carolina from her native Tennessee, learning her grandmother’s bread recipe and starting her business from her living room in Brown Summit. It’s hard to not let Shana’s Southern charm fool you, but behind her smile and twang, she is smart, incredibly resourceful and optimistic. Every obstacle she tackled with calculated research and tireless strategizing. Tears welled up in my eyes when she reached the inevitable ending to her foodie fairytale which included the offer to sell her rolls in all 106 Fresh Market stores in the Southeast (and have been recently picked up in Lowe’s Food Stores).
What I found so remarkable about Shana’s success was her passion for the NC food culture. She is as much an advocate for North Carolina’s food industry as she is a champion for her own product . Intertwined into her own story, she bragged about North Carolina’s lead in sweet potato production and Chef Jay Pierce’s growing accolades at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. Shana is smart enough to understand the importance of interdependency among NC food makers, growers, producers and consumers – even advocates (that’s you and me!). There is no doubt that with this wisdom her company will continue to grow and she will leverage more NC food products along the way.
As the holidays roll rapidly toward us, I suggest stocking up on Anna Mae rolls this season, as they are perfect for any occasion – a bonfire brunch, a formal dinner party or leftovers for the game. I recently served them alongside a holiday porchetta. Porchetta is a self-indulgent, Italian boneless pork roast that is a test of patience to create but a rewarding roast for holiday company. If you’re up for a challenge, it is well worth it. It could just be your own fairytale happy ending to holiday entertaining.
This porchetta is even more delicious the next day stuffed into a Anna Mae Sweet Potato & Molasses Rolls with fresh winter greens.
Holiday Porchetta Sliders with Anna Mae Sweet Potato and Molasses Rolls
Porchetta, adapted from Bon Appetit September 2011
- 1 (8 by 14 inch rectanlge) piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- 1 2–3-pound boneless, center-cut pork loin
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 10 cloves roasted garlic (or garlic confit)
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 orange, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
Put belly skin side down; arrange loin in center. Roll belly around loin to see if it will fit when enclosed. Trim the meat accordingly. Set the pork loin aside.
Set belly skin side down. Score the belly flesh with a sharp knife 1/3″ deep in a grid pattern. Flip belly to the skin side up. Using a smaller knife, stab the skin of the pork (all the way through) as much as you can. This is the time to take your aggression out! If you didn’t get enough rage out, now use the pointy side of the a meat mallet and pound the skin vigorously. This will tenderize the meat and ensure an extra crispy outside.
Season all sides of both pork belly and loin generously with salt. Sprinkle the inside of the pork belly with fennel seed, sage, rosemary, roasted garlic and red pepper flakes. Layer citrus on top of the seasoned meat. Place the pork loin down middle of belly. Roll belly around loin and tie with kitchen twine. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1–2 days. This will dry the skin out to increase the crunchiness.
Before cooking, allow the roast to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500°F. Season again with salt. Roast for 40 minutes turning occasionally. Reduce heat to 300°F for another hour to hour and a half until the internal temperature is 145°F. If the skin isn’t crispy enough, bring the oven back to 500°F for another 10 minutes. Allow the roast to rest and then slice.
For day-after sliders,
- leftover porchetta, sliced
- baby collard greens or other tender winter green, julienned
- 1 lemon, juiced
- garlic oil
- salt & pepper
- Anna Mae’s Sweet Potato and Molasses Rolls
Wash, dry and julienne the greens. Season with lemon juice, garlic olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff leftover porchetta and greens into a warm Anna Mae Sweet Potato and Molasses Roll.