cucina bene; mangia bene (porchetta)
When I was in Emilia Romagna during my culinary program, I ate a lot of pork. Emilia Romagna is known for its salumi’s: prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, culatello, coppa, and many others too numerous to name here. One that is less well known in the USA is called porchetta. Porchetta is a whole pig that has been gutted, and stuffed with various herbs, salt, pepper, (sometimes its own offal), and then slow roasted until the skin becomes caramelized and crunchy; it is truly delicious.
Porchetta can be found all over Italy, and many regions claim origin. There are stands where one can buy a panino (sandwich) or piadina (piadina is an Italian flatbread found in Emilia Romagna and Le Marche; it’s like a tortilla) stuffed with porchetta., or you can buy a big hunk to take home and eat with family and friends. Of course, the Italians never put any BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, or anything that would cover up the pure roasted pork flavor.
Since I’ve been back in the US, I’ve seen two cooking shows on the Food channels and have read a couple of food magazine articles on porchetta, so it seems as if Americans have caught on to it. There’s even a restaurant in NYC called Porchetta. The home cook could easily simulate by slow roasting a boneless pork shoulder, but it must have the skin and fat in order for it to be even close to the real deal. You won’t find meat like that at the local supermarket, so one must find a good butcher or a local farmer that can provide such a cut. Once the meat has been procured, the following recipe from Le Marche will deliver great results:
7 oz. fennel tops (wild fennel is best)
garlic to taste
1 sprig rosemary
Fresh sage leaves
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 5-6 lb. boneless pork should with the skin attached
Preheat the oven to 350F. Finely chop together, the fennel, herbs, and garlic. Add salt, pepper, the balsamic vinegar, and a little water to bind the mixture. Butterfly the pork shoulder and spread the mixture evenly over the inside. Roll the roast, with the skin on the outside, and tie with kitchen twine. Brush the roast with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put roast on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 2-3 hours basting with white wine from time to time. Turn off the heat when the roast is golden and the skin is crunchy, but let sit in the oven for another hour to rest. Remove the twine and slice. Serve with steamed kale for a main entree, or make yourself a sandwich…..and don’t use any BBQ sauce! Buon Appetito!