Porchetta Class at The Astor Center

December 22nd, 2008
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I’m ridiculously behind in posting this. And at this point, I’m so behind on posting anything that there’s much more to say, but here’s the start.
On Friday, December 12th, I attended a class at The Astor Center led by Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren from A16 in San Francisco.
In a bit of serendipity, I discovered the class in November just a day after deciding that I wanted to make some sort of Porchetta for next weekend’s Holiday Party. Except I had no idea how to do it. I was going to wing it, but then I came across this.
I’ve mentioned Porchetta before, but for the uninitiated, it is roast pig, usually whole, seasoned with salt, rosemary, garlic and fennel that is rolled and roasted. What you get is meltingly tender meat, scented with the herbs in every bite and surrounded by crispy skin. It’s amazing.
I had heard of A16 during my research for my last visit to SF in the summer, but never made it out there. I just found out I’ll be going back to SF in two weeks, so I’m definitely going to check it out. I don’t know if Porchetta is on the menu, but from the morsel handed out at the session, and the rummaging through the A16 book I picked up while there, they definitely have food I need to eat.
After the jump, my notes on how to turn that fine specimen above into this:
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To Debone:
-Start cutting along the rib cage
-Slice along to the back on either side, stopping at the backbone.
-Work your way down towards the hips.
-Below rib cage, cut down to backbone, cutting away from meat.
-When you get to the hips, cut around leg sockets.
-Feel around the bone and cut away from meat.
-Pull hips upwards and cut away from meat towards the head.
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-Once cut all the way up to the head, pull all the way back, snap neck and remove bones.
[You can start seasoning from here or remove shoulder and leg bones. This will allow the seasoning to flavor the meat more quickly.]
-Cut around shoulder blades and remove.
-To remove upper leg bone, cut around bone, grip like a handle and pull backwards, snapping from sinews. Cut around to remove. Repeat.
-Flatten out pig and find the thinner areas along the abdomen.
-To ensure an even cooking, use chunks of organs or leg meat to even out the thickness in those areas.
To season: Do 2 days in advance.
-Salt generously. It will take more salt than you think.
-Season thoroughly with minced garlic and rosemary and ground fennel.
Appleman finished it off with a trick he learned some time ago: cover the entire inside of the pig with thin slices of lemon.
-Roll pig tightly.
-Salt exterior.
Tying:
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-Make one ‘solid’ tie around neck and shoulder.
-Making loops, tie all the way back up to the legs.
-If oven space is at a premium, the pig can be doubled over, head over tail and tied again. Like so:
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Cooking:
-Roast on oven rack, with a pan or baking sheet filled with wine or other flavored liquid.
-Cook at 300 degrees for 5 hours (for a 35 lbs pig).
-Finish at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.
If you can’t get the whole pig in the oven, Appleman suggested cutting off the head and cooking it separately by braising then roasting it.

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