Porchetta at Home, Take 2

February 8th, 2009
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With my January travels complete, I finally have some time to spend in the kitchen. In the last week, I’ve cooked 4-5 meals and begun aging a ham and curing bacon, lardo and guanciale. More on that later.
The point is, that I’ve finally gotten a chance to take another whack and porchetta, that fragrantly herby rolled pork I tried out with a suckling pig back in December.
Back then, I was happy with the final product, but not entirely satisfied. In particular, the two trouble spots were the lemons, which mostly got in the way and the herbs, which I was too light-handed with.
My initial thoughts were to use a pork belly, which would tie most easily and provide the crispy skin as well as a remarkably tender layer of meat automatically basted by the outer layer of fat, all the while soaking in the spice rub.
Eric had also been considering ways to improve the porchetta since my first attempt. He thought that a belly on it’s own would not yield enough meat for all the trouble and advised using a pork loin in the middle to balance that out. The idea being that the inherent dryness of the loin would be be countered by the salty rub of fennel pollen and minced rosemary. He also suggested continuing to use lemons, but limiting it to the zest and the juice. Finally, he mentioned that Porchetta the shop in the East Village scores their porchetta in a diamond pattern to maximize the crispy skin.
After the jump, the blow by blow…


First, the Belly:
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The day before I bought this 6.5 lbs slab of Pork Belly in Brooklyn Chinatown, I went to Marlowe & Daughters and bought a 1lb piece of Pork Belly. I used that belly cut to make my own bacon. The single pound cost $12. Worth it given that the bacon is all about the pork and the quality of meat was going to make a noticeable difference in the final product.
This pork on the other hand was $1.99 a pound, a much more reasonable price point for meat I’m going to season heavily and play with more. Would it taste better with heritage pork with a gigantic layer of fat on top? Probably, but I’ll never know.
On to the spice rub:
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Sadly, I have nothing in the way of measurements here. I poured in a bunch of salt, a few minced cloves of garlic, nearly all the rosemary I had, and more fennel pollen than I thought I should use. I rubbed it inside the belly, then rolled the loin over it, getting the seasoning to cover it entirely.
I then asked my beautiful assistant, Tammi to tie it up for me. I’m terrible with such things.
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At this point, I remembered that I didn’t add the lemon or score the skin. Too late.
The pork roll went in the fridge for 3 days.
On Wednesday, I roasted it at 375 for 2 hours, then at 450 for an additional hour.
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Gorgeous, isn’t it?
The final product, had all of the flavor I was looking for. The skin could definitely have benefited from more scoring than the little I managed before putting it in the oven and the lemon may have added another dimension, but regardless, this was wonderful.
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The next day, Eric came over and we chopped some of the porchetta up, browned it in the cast iron and made sandwiches with it on Ciabatta. He said it looked and tasted like the stuff he had on the streets of Rome. A better compliment, I can’t imagine.

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