Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to make porchetta



I lost a lot of sleep over this porchetta. Literally.

It was the main course for a Labor Day lunch with some friends, you see. And since I'm a big proponent of the "low and slow" method of cooking, that meant getting to work really early.



There are a lot of ways to make porchetta, from the most traditional (a whole roasted pig that's stuffed with garlic and herbs) to the more modern (belly only) variations. I leaned closer to the traditional by using (l. to r.) a pork loin, a belly, and the skin. The loin gets wrapped by the belly which is wrapped by the skin. All told the entire thing weighed in at just under 7 1/2 pounds raw. (A note about the pork: Use the best you can get your hands on. This pork is from a small family farm around half and hour from my home. The hogs are raised naturally and even work the fields, as hogs do.)



There's no one way to season porchetta. I just went out to my garden and grabbed what I could get my hands on, then chopped everything up as finely as I could. There are leaves from my celery plants, fennel fronds, rosemary and thyme, plus an entire head of this year's garlic crop. In addition there's the zest of one large lemon.



Put everything in a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.



Lay the skin flat (outside down) and lightly cover with some of the herb mixture.



Then lay the belly over the skin.



Cover the belly with more of the herb mixture.



Then lay the loin on the edge of the belly. (My butcher butterflied the loin and also scored it so that the seasoning could be more evenly distributed.)



At this point spread the remaining herb mixture over the loin and start rolling. To roll the porchetta leave the skin laying flat and first roll the belly around the loin, starting from the loin side. Once you've done that then wrap the skin around the entire thing and tie.



Like so.

Once it's all tied up take a sharp knife and score the skin all over. Look closely and you can see all the cuts I've made throughout. You can now either start cooking right away or wait a while. (I let things marinate overnight.) When you are ready to cook place a rack in a deep oven pan and set the porchetta on top. Make sure it comes up to room temp before it goes into the oven.

As for what temperature to cook the thing at, well, "low and slow" is best. That's why I was up at 1:30 in the morning to take the meat out of the fridge, then again at 3:30 to turn on the oven, wait for it to come up to temp, and then put the porchetta in — at 225 degrees F.



Around seven and a half hours later (the last 15 minutes at 500 degrees F just to crisp the skin a little bit more) the porchetta was done. Don't cut it up right away, allow it to cool down. Honestly, I like it at room temp, which is how I served it yesterday.



Removing the skin makes things easier to slice—thin is best, I think—but if you get the skin to the right degree of crispiness it's a treat to eat.

Just one more piece of advice: Make this for dinner, not lunch.

You'll sleep a lot better. Believe me.

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