Not to wax nostalgic about a piece of meat, but who am I kidding? that's what this blog is about!
We had this on our NYC trip 3 years ago, it was on the food on foot tour that we signed up for with the shittypass coupon thing. It was from a place very aptly named Porchetta, and it was so good, in a "man I have to make this and eat the whole fucking thing" kind of way. Strictly speaking, the meat there was on the cold side and the crackling was a bit less than crispy, but you can tell from something like that that it had potential to be a crowd pleaser, and a crowd pleaser it is, having cooked the dish for my birthday last year, this time I had some practice an, shall we say, a known good recipe that gets not only the textures right, but the flavoring with the fennel and the chile... yes, 'tis a keeper this one.
Fair warning: if you're reading this the day you're expecting to serve this... well, you're a little late, this recipe requires at least 30 hours advance prep.
- 1 5–6-pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
- 1 (trimmed) 2-3-pound boneless, center-cut pork loin
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
1/2 orange, seeded, thinly sliced
- Butcher's twine
Notice that there are a couple of ingredients missing, we didn't have rosemary, so that was skipped, orange, on the other hand was available, but I completely forgot!
The mis, first step in anything that has more than 3 ingredients (and even THEN, you might benefit from it) is to get your shit in order, or, as the french say: mis en place
Toast the fennel and chile flakes until fragrant and the chiles change color slightly, this means that they will be more prone to being pulverized because they're nice and dry instead of leathery and not-very-powderable
After the toasting, grind and pound away with the herbs.
After you think you've ground it down to a nice consistency, grind some more because fragrant and flavorful as these spices may be, it's rather annoying to get a piece of fennel seed in between your teeth.
After you've done the grind, or, of course, let someone else do the grind break out the knives if your butcher is anything but .. well.. good. The guy at the asian market that sold me this piece of belly had that "please don't ask me to butcher it" look on his face, so I just had to get the whole pork belly with ribs and skin. It HAD to be done.
Ok, so you got that piece of piggy out, hopefully your knives are in an ok state (if not, here's a small tutorial (in Spanish, yes) on sharpening). What you're going to want to do is go along the second fat layer, separating the ribs as you go, since this IS where bacon comes from, try to make the belly part look like a slice of bacon, with skin, of course.
Yes, thems ribs are.. well, at the time of this writing, were for another meal.
Like stated previously, separate the ribs from the belly by cutting/slashing ad the second fat layer in short motions while you pull on the ribs.
Now, this is more porchetta specific: put your loins (heh.. ) in the belly and wrap, so you can trim all the way around, notice how the belly part is now square-ish instead of a rectangle.
After you've got your belly nice and trimmed, cut a cross-hatch pattern on the inside (non-skin side) to that it'll more easily release that beautiful fat while cooking.
Next, flip the belly so it's skin-side up and pound the heck out of it with a poking tool or a combination of poking holes with a paring knife and beating with a meat mallet, the goal is to break up the connective tissue to soften it up and the holes will make it self-baste and more crispy-crackling.
This tool is a combination of meat cleaver and tenderizing poker, as you can see from the image above, it does a fine job.
All trimmed, tenderized and lined up, we're ready to roll!
Smear the spice mix all around the loins, if using the orange slices, arrange those first, then the loins.
Wrap the belly around the tenderloin
Tie with butcher's twine with loops every ~1/2" intervals
Like a beautiful meat caterpillar
Park the belly on a baking rack in the fridge for at least 24 hours so it'll have time to dry out the skin. When you're ready to go, take the belly out at least 2 hours before baking, and at least 6 before you plan on serving if you plan on serving warm from the oven, of course!
Rest at room temperature for 2 hours and put into a preheated oven at 500F for 40 minutes. This WILL smoke!, so prepare for that. Then, lower the temperature to 300F and roast until the internal temperature reaches 145F or about an hour, at the end, if the skin hasn't turned golden brown and delicious, hit it with another 10 or so minutes at 500F. Be sure to rest the roll for at least 30 minutes, it'll be to soft to cut into pretty rolls if not. Once cooled, remove the twine and slice with a serrated knife using light back and forth motion to avoid smooshing the roll.
Tradition doesn't mention a sauce, so I made one up with roux made with the pork fat (infused with those spices you ground up, remember?), some red wine, pan drippings and mushrooms; thyme and other herbs may have been involved.
After cooling further; the fats will have congealed enough for very pretty slices.
Heck, they'll be thin enough to put a couple into a sandwich and still be cracklin' beautiful! (that's some of the house sourdough baguettes, by the way).
Ends? did someone say ends? If you don't live for ends in life, I don't know what you're living for.