Among the many talented voices on the internet, two regularly blow my mind: i am a food blog for some of the best food photography, styling and design and LUXIRARE for constantly surprising me with innovative and provocative twists on both food and presentation (sea urchin “McNuggets”? please.)
The point being, these blogs are generally aspirational reading.
A week or so ago, I was
drooling over perusing i am a food blog and one post caught my eye: porchetta.
While pork tenderloin, with its tendency towards dryness, is my least favorite cut of pork, wrapping it in a layer of pork belly to bathe it in a steady stream of rendering fat while slow cooking is a good remedy for that. Throw in a rub of salty-herby goodness and the promise of a heaping pile of crispy pork skin, and I’m pretty much sold on the dish. What sealed the deal, however, was the photo. One look at this beautiful cross-section of porcine delights and porchetta went on the “make this IMMEDIATELY” list.
And, like any proper self-enabler, I looked at the recipe and justified the purchase of nearly 8 pounds of pork for the two of us by saying, “Oh, you have to use up that half bunch of parsley before it goes bad.”
The first order of business was to acquire some skin-on belly. This is not a standard retail item, but thankfully the good folks at The Rock Barn hooked me up with a fresh, 12″x12″ piece of skin-on belly within 24 hours of my request. It should be noted that a square foot of pork belly is hefty, weighing in at nearly six pounds, and is not “a pound or two” as I had originally anticipated. (Sticker shock? A wee bit. At this point, the ramifications of a cooking disaster–however remote that possibility may be when slow-cooking a fatty cut of pork–did weigh on me, if only briefly. I regained a positive outlook by thinking about crispy cracklings.)
Once you have the component parts–a skin-on belly, a small tenderloin, salt, butcher’s twine, some lemon zest, and a variety of spices–the assembly and subsequent cooking process is straightforward and, dare I say it for something that looks so impressive, easy.
In fact, the hardest part is more physical than technical: scoring the skin. It may be that I lack an adequately sharp, small knife, but pork skin is quite resistant to efforts to slice it open. My attempts at neat incisions yielded jagged, veering cuts. In the end, I resorted to using kitchen shears, stabbing and hacking away in ungraceful fashion. Thankfully, my kitchen aspirations are realistic; aesthetic success is a bonus, but in no way my primary metric of culinary achievement.
It should be said that I followed i am a food blog’s recipe almost exactly. The only modifications were:
- I added 2 minced cloves of garlic to the herb mixture
- I did not use all of the salt blend
After 4 hours of roasting at 250, my thermometer registered exactly the desired internal temperature (160). I poured off the rendered fat (to save before it might start to burn/smoke), upped the oven temp to 450, and, in just under 35 minutes, saw the skin transform from flabby into crisp, perfectly brown cracklings. The best pork crackling we’ve ever eaten, in fact.
While the pork was delicious, I was blown away by the flavor of the simple, parsley-based green salsa that accompanied it. I avoid parsley as a general rule, as it often hits me as too something – too grassy? too bitter? (I’m not entirely sure.) But the zing of this salsa has me reconsidering my parsley stance, and I’ll be more willing to try parsley-heavy recipes in the future.
Last, what to do with pounds and pounds of porchetta? As much as we are both hearty eaters AND pork lovers, porchetta is so deliciously rich that it is difficult to eat in any large quantity. So, we removed the crackling (we had no problem eating all of that!) and sliced and froze some for future use. The rest was turned into delicious breakfast hashes. I chopped up the porchetta and seared it in a cast iron skillet, rendering out some tasty fat in the process. Into this fat went some baked potatoes to fry into crispy home fry goodness.
And, of course, I put an egg (or two) on it.