Friday, August 27, 2010

The Porchetta Project

Porchetta - Carved Up
I have been dreaming of porchetta lately: a big roast of pork, redolent of rosemary and garlic and wrapped in crispy, crackly pork skin. This is a dish that's easy to get if you live in Italy, or near the eponymous shop in NYC, but up in my neck of the woods, not so much.

So what's a girl to do but take this porky problem into her own hands? Technically I needed what's called a "long middle" (a pork loin with the belly still attached), but my favorite pork supplier Tim Rocha at Kellie Brook Farm let me know that might be a tough cut for him to get. So, I decided to cobble together Frankenpig from a loin, some fatback and a skin-on belly.

Porchetta - 1st layer - belly with rub
I made a rub of rosemary, garlic, black pepper and salt to use for seasoning the roast and got to work assembling the beast: I laid the belly out and rubbed it liberally with half of the seasoning. I laid the loin over it and rubbed on the other half of the seasoning. I took the fatback (I did trim it down as it was really thick, so it ended up with a piece that was about 1/3 inch thick ) and laid it over the top.

Porchetta - ready to roast
I then did a ridiculously poor job of trussing this amalgam into a cylinder. I put it onto a rack on a sheet pan and left it in the fridge for for a day, to let the rub's herbiness perfume the meat.

Since the roast was so thick (almost 10 inches) I took it out of the fridge an hour before I started roasting it. I followed the basic instructions that Molly Stevens used in her
porchetta project. Porchetta - first 30 minutesI put the roast into a 475-degree oven on a roasting rack on a sheet pan and let it crackle away for 30 minutes (this will create A LOT of smoke; turn off the smoke detectors first). Then the oven went down to 325-degrees and the porchetta roasted away for another 3 hours.

I popped into the oven every now and then and basted the skin with the fat that was accumulating in the pan. I also siphoned off a lot of this fat as it rendered. This was a necessary chore as a lot of fat rendered off: nearly 2 cups.

While this wasn't my perfect porchetta: it was a little too fatty, the loin on the ends was a little dry and the skin wasn't crispy all the way around. But, holy moly, it was a delicious. The skin that was crisped up was super crunchy and toothsome. The rosemary and garlic flavor permeated the meat and made for a great flavor. While the roast was resting, I roasted potatoes on a sheet pan with some of the rendered fat. We enjoyed our porchetta and potatoes with a fennel salad.

Porchetta SandwichTwo days later, we had an amazing sandwiches of gently-warmed porchetta, tomatoes and Swiss chard salad for dinner. Nom nom.

Changes for next time:
  • Remember to score the skin before you truss the roast - very very hard to score skin without cutting through the trussing twine.
  • Don't put the rub on the outside of the roast. I did and it started scorching up right off the bat.
  • Trim back a little more fat from the roast: a had a double layer of fat on the top (the loin fat against the back fat was too thick a layer).
  • Roll the roast during the skin-crisping stage to make sure that all the skin gets exposed to the heat.


splatgirl said...

Here's to worshiping at the altar of pork. Fatty, crispy, well seasoned, roasted pork. Amen
Looks delicious and perfect. Maybe try butterflying and/or pounding the meatiest parts flatter next time to make it easier to roll?

Sunday Cook said...

I think my rolling challenge stemmed more from the fact that I had two pieces that made up the outer layer so it was more wrapping than rolling. One thing that helped a lot: I tied two strings as tightly as I could around the roll and then snugged the belly and back back around the loin.

My belly wasn't flat, so I did trim some of it down as well to make a flat piece.

Have you posted pics of any of your experiences?

Stefan Jones said...

That looks just lovely.

Sunday Cook said...

Thanks Stefan!

Stefan Jones said...

My parents sent me home from my recent visit a great big hunk of bacon made by their Mennonite neighbors.

I had a few slices for breakfast the morning I got back, and since then anything pork looks just outrageously sumptuous.

Sunday Cook said...

I lurve the pork and pork products. What's been great for me is my pork guy - the pork I'm getting from him is just so delicious - nice and juicy and properly piggy. Supermarket stuff will never be the same.

adele said...

The first time I ate porchetta, it was in a little village just outside Rome, from an open-air stand - a big piece between slices of bread. The second time I ate porchetta, it was after I jumped back in the queue after scarfing down the first one!

This looks incredible. :)

Sunday Cook said...

Thanks Adele - I know have to get my butt back to Italy so I can try one in the original setting! Or at least to NYC to try one of the ones down there.

JacquelineC said...

Boneless pork shoulder would work, wouldn't it? Or do you really want belly in there too? I think in traditional prochetta they pretty much use the whole pig boned out? I'm salivating and cannot stop thinking about this picture and recipe even though there are other things I ought to be doing...

Sunday Cook said...

I'm sure sure shoulder would work fine (and be a smaller roast). You've got to make sure you have a good amount of fat on the roast and of, course, you must have skin to ensure crackliness. I used the belly to follow Molly's method and also b/c I had one on hand in my freezer.

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