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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Porchetta on the Big Kettle

My friend Rob is moving from the temporary rental house he and his family have been living in for the past year and a half, after finally finding the next great home for them. And it was time to do a farewell cook to the patio that has hosted quite a few great cooks. It had to be epic. And it was up to me to do something special, enter the Live Fire Bucket List. The idea of digging a huge pit was not really a good idea, so it was to Item Two that we turned. Porchetta! To be more specific, a version of the real deal, we went with a pork belly wrapped around a tenderloin, and smoked, then roasted. A true Porchetta, still Item Two on the list, is a small pig, boned whole, and stuffed with herbs, then tied and roasted in a wood oven (this will happen). In any event...

Porchetta and Beef Ribs

How did we get there? Well...


To start the process, I took some home grown sage, basil, thyme and store bought rosemary and flat leaf parsley, reduced this to a very fine chop. Added the zest from a lemon (for this use, organic lemon, as I want a clean rind) and mixed it all together. Three-fourths were to be used as herbs, the other fourth was ground into the salt and pepper, to make a spiced salt. This brings out more aromatics and integrates the flavors into the salt and pepper. I also toasted some fennel seeds and coriander seeds, these were powdered in the mortar and pestle.

Herbs and Zest

That may not look like a lot, but, it is plenty of herbs for this size roast. I also minced up three shallot bulbs and a dozen garlic bulbs were first minced then turned into a paste.

Pork Belly-untrimmed

And here is the pork belly, untrimmed. I needed to remove some silverskin and clean up some excess meat and fat. Although I am a huge fan of carbon steel and Japanese blades, when working with meat like this, I default to my Dexter-Russels, the handles remain secure in wet hands, and the blades have the right edge for me. I can make very precise cuts with these two knives. I should note, the skin side got a thorough scrubbing with kosher salt and vinegar, this was both to clean it, and make sure it had a coat of salt and acid.

Nice and trimmed

I went ahead and scored the meat at this point, about 1/2 the distance through the meat side and through the skin as well. This aids in getting the meat evenly cooked, and it getting the fat to render. It is pretty important, as if you don't do this, the meat folds and makes it harder to roll. It also enables more of the herbs and spices to penetrate the belly. I happened also butterflied two tenderloins.

Salt, Pepper, Fennel Seed and Coriander Seed

Shallots, Garlic, Herbs

At this point, I took the time to force the spices and herbs into the slices in the meat, and to work it around enough to get an even layer. Then the tenderloins.

Butterflied Tenderloins

And now, time to roll it up into a single roast. It is just for this reason, that I keep a roll of butcher twine handy. It actually ended up being quite easy to get a 10 pound pork belly to wrap around 3 pounds of tenderloin.

The small end

The large end

I was a little worried about the large end being open, but, there was no practical way at this point to get it closed. Ended up being a non-issue. That last two inches were sacrificed for beans anyway. You can see the slices in the skin at this point. Again, these will enable the fat to render and hopefully the skin will crisp.

And we're on the way...

At this point, I added a paste made of kosher salt, lemon juice and olive oil to the surface.

I want a rotisserie...

These are progress shots, I think the roast ended up staying on the cooker for at least another hour and a half. It was not quite as dark as it looks here, but, there was some singing. These areas did not taste at all bad though. Shortly after this shot, the end towards the camera as removed to add some pork and smoke to the fresh cranberry beans someone else was cooking.

And here we are

The first few slices, you can see the herbs, if only you could smell what I smelled when I cut into this. The entire kitchen and dining room filled with the fennel, coriander and herbs. The skin had some room for improvements, but, some parts of it were brilliant. Crunchy and salty. The pork was tender and moist, but, not as fatty as it would have seemed.

Chunks before chopping

Some chunks were served as a fine chop for sandwiches, I had bought some slider buns from Cakebox Bakery, a local bakery that makes the best burger buns. Other larger chunks/slices were served as they came off the roast. Some of the above pork may not have made it to the table.

The small end sliced

The small end stayed together quite nicely. You can see the skin didn't pop quite as well. Still, this shows how the salt and herbs worked with the meat. We ended up eating only about 1/3 of the roast for 6 people. It was very rich.


Yep, there were leftovers. I was sort of expecting more than 6, but, having leftovers like this, not a problem. Next time, I will start earlier and run a hotter fire earlier in the cook. I will also use a loin, not a tenderloin, as the meat in the center was so delicious, and I am certain a loin would have been even better. But, I was very happy with the flavor, texture and overall quality of the cook. Especially for a first time.

1 comment:

  1. That's one that I have never done but it's on my list. Great job with the pork belly in the porchetta.