Monday, May 28, 2012

Holiday Porchetta!

Hmmm.  It's been so long since I've posted around here that I don't recognize this re-design of the Blogger interface.   Lets see how this goes...

It can't go too badly, because what I have to share with you is a thing of beauty and a joy until it's devoured: Porchetta.  I know it's May (my first post of 2012 - did I mention it's been a while?), and it's 92º in Chapel Hill, but it's never a bad time to serve up one of these suckers.  Is it easy to make? Well, you'll find out.

A brief bit of back story.  I had acquired what is called an Export Rack, which is an entire bone-in loin roast of pig. Imagine all of the pork chops together uncut - or a loin roast still attached to the baby back ribs (no need to imagine, as there's more of that below).  That's an export rack.  The one I picked up cheap came from a freezer sale at Cane Creek, and this rack was in a deep, deep freeze, and it was a tad older than your average customer wants to buy.  Lucky for me, cuz I get it for a song. It stayed in my freezer while I plotted how to invite over those who might be worthy of it.  A few months pass, and I see a beautiful, not ridiculously fatty belly at the Carrboro Farmer's Markrt, and I think - hmm, that could work, too.  But still, I need the right size crowd to make the best use of this stunning extravagance.  So, Memorial Day will do - we can round up a crowd of 10+ eaters, and at least put a good sized dent in this thing.  Now, the last thing I really need to make this work is some skin to wrap up the entire loin-in-belly-in-skin preparation, so I order some of that, too. And now have an enormous pile of pig skin shoved in the back of the freezer - anyone want to make their own chicharrones? Just come take it away- please.

Did I mention that, in these intervening months, both my wife and I have had diagnoses of elevated cholesterol? How could THAT happen?! Nothing dire, but enough to put the kibosh on eating like this more than once  in - how about a lifetime?

On to the cooking.  Let's start with the simple stuff - the seasoning

 A bunch of garlic.

Some orange zest

 Mix all together with salt and paper.  

Later you'll see that there's a bunch of fennel seed and rosemary in the mix, as well.


Here it, is rubbed all over a smallish pork belly - maybe a little over 2 pounds here.

Next to the belly, and rubbed with rosemary and fennel, the pork loin.  Here, you can see I sliced the loin off the bone (the rack of ribs at the top of the pic), then cut the trim off the loin (the fatter cut next to the ribs) and butterflied the loin.  Everything is covered in rosemary and fennel, and awaiting the orange zest mixture. 

Like zoh.

Now, you add some skin, for crispiness, and to keep some moisture in the whole package.  Usually, the belly would have skin on, but in this case, it came skinned.  

Fat side up.

And the huge bag of extra skin... like fall out from a liposuction clinic.

Here's where it gets fun.  Take the loin, fold it up (if you butterflied it, like I did).  Then wrap the loin in the belly.  And, if your belly is skinless, wrap the entire monstrosity in some skin.  And it is a monstrosity. A loin, belly, and skin from separate beasts, Franken-chetta.  (in Casteli Romano, where this dish comes from, they bone out a whole pig and wrap it on a spit!) 

Here's a slightly tricky part, and I admit I did a crap job of it. Until I looked up how to tie a proper butchers' slipknot, and the whole thing came together just fine.

Now this bundle of joy sits in your fridge marinating for a few days.  If you can wait. If not, it's ready to go.

Here it is, already well underway. I cooked it on a rack over a pan at 275º for a few hours, then threw the potatoes underneath it, and continued cooking away for another 4 hours or so.

After a total of perhaps 6 hours at 275º (4 would probably be plenty) I took everything out of the oven, and cranked it up to 500º (or higher!!).  I put the whole thing - meat, skin potatoes, rack, pan, etc. - back in the oven and just checked on it every 10 minutes.  I just want the skin to turn to crackling, and the potatoes to brown. Oh, at the same time that the roast was roasting I took those ribs, gave em a dry rub, and wrapped them in foil to cook at 275º for 3 hours.  Once I cranked the heat, I put a gloppy sweet sauce on them (fine, the rub was HOT!) and glazed them up as follows.

At last, all is done, and here is the finished roast beast! A hybrid breed of pork roast if ever there was!

Believe it or not, I haven't even eaten any of this yet - I'm typing while I sit and wait for the guests to arrive (There's the doorbell! Hurry up you invited eaters!!)

Ooof.  Postprandial ruminations.  This thing was good. The skin, alas, was less crispy than crunchy, but rather tough. It was so irresistible that we kept crunching down on pieces hoping it would disintegrate into delectable pork chips, but - while it tasted great- the texture was thick and chewy. Oh well.  
Otherwise, heavenly.

Eaten with a basic salsa verde: parsley, garlic, anchovy, vinegar.  You need that bracing vinegary bite to cut the grease.

It'll be a while before I make one of these again, but it could happen.  It certainly left a pile of satisfied eaters in its wake.