Christmas dinner: Porchetta

2012-12-25 at 14-49-01

I’ve wanted to do a porchetta for a very long time. The allure of that fatty belly meat means flavor by the truckload. I liked the notion of this recipe from Bon Appetit, which wrapped the slab of belly meat around a loin. A good quality piece of pork from a butcher or farm, not a grocery store, would be a winner in this recipe. I figured that the crowd accompanying Christmas dinner would make a great venue for this sort of big recipe.

2012-12-23 at 09-39-39Luckily, I have a connection. Okay, so it’s really not a connection. It’s a booth at the Central New York Regional Market. I’ve purchased bacon from Bostrom Farms in the past. Bostrom, based in Penn Yan, sets up shop weekly at the market. Their meat is cut and packed by a third-party, but the pork is bred and raised by the family. You can taste the difference between their product and the grocery store/factory pork. Actually, you can smell it. Sometimes grocery store pork has that briny pork smell. It has been frozen, defrosted, frozen, etc. so many times that it just doesn’t smell healthy. I mean, that’s why you had to cook it until 160 degrees all of those years. The processors didn’t treat the meat well. Anyhow, there’s no smell to Bostrom Farms pork. Even though it is frozen for sale, the defrosted loin had a fresh meat smell.

2012-12-23 at 09-52-14This is a three-day recipe: prep, rest, roast. The prep is pretty cut and dry. Tenderize  the belly, rub the herbs in and wrap it around the loin. Letting it rest in a fridge for two days lets it “dry age” and absorb the garlic and herbs. Then, the blast of a hot oven followed by slow roasting gives a nice exterior crust with a juicy inside.

WHAT WORKED: The sear and roast cooking. It took just shy of two hours to cook through, which was perfect in terms of timing and taste.

WHAT DIDN’T: Unfortunately, the belly separated from the loin when I sliced it. It took away from the presentation, but not much else.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “I’m not crazy about the pork belly. It’s really fatty.” She wasn’t crazy about my explanation: “That’s the point.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I’ll do this for entertainment purposes sometime soon. The pork is expensive, but then again, if you want quality, you pay for it.

2012-12-25 at 14-08-39Porchetta
By Bon Appetit

  • 1 3 lb. piece fresh pork belly, skin on (The biggest I could get was 3 lbs.)
  • 1 (trimmed) 2–3 lb. boneless, center-cut pork loin
  • 3 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 orange, seeded, thinly sliced (NOTE: I used a whole blood orange for a sour flavor)

Put belly skin side down; arrange loin in center. Roll belly around loin so the short ends of the belly meet. If any of the belly or loin overhangs, trim meat. Unroll; set loin aside.

Toast fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Tip spices into a bowl; let cool. Finely grind spices in a spice mill and transfer to a small bowl, along with the sage, rosemary, and garlic; set fennel mixture aside.

Assemble porchetta according to steps 1-5 below.

Refrigerate roast, uncovered, for 1–2 days to allow skin to air-dry; pat occasionally with paper towels.

Let porchetta sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 500°F. Season porchetta with salt. Roast on rack in baking sheet, turning once, for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue roasting, rotating the pan and turning porchetta occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 145°F, 1 1/2–2 hours more. If skin is not yet deep brown and crisp, increase heat to 500°F and roast for 10 minutes more. Let rest for 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice into 1/2″ rounds.

To assemble:

  1. Set belly skin side down. Using a knife, score the belly flesh in a checkerboard pattern 1/3″ deep so roast will cook evenly.
  2. Flip belly skin side up. Using a paring knife, poke dozens of 1/8″-deep holes through skin all over belly. Don’t be gentle! Keep poking.
  3. Using the jagged edge of a meat mallet, pound skin all over for 3 minutes to tenderize, which will help make skin crispy when roasted.
  4. Turn belly and generously salt both it and loin; rub both with fennel mixture. Arrange loin down middle of belly. Top with orange slices.
  5. Roll belly around loin; tie crosswise with kitchen twine at 1/2″ intervals. Trim twine. Transfer roast to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.