The Porchetta Project

porchetta toscana

Girl and boy salivate in awe at certain food preparation on TV.  Trips are planned with the hope to find this mythical creation.  Oceans are crossed, stick-shift cars rented.

“Look!  There is its!”

“Didn’t we just have lunch?”

“Oh… maybe later.”

Another day goes by.  They can’t seem to work their way through the maze of cobblestoned streets and find that stand again.  They load up the car and make their way to another village in the hilly Toscana.

“Look!  There it is!”

“Let me take a picture!”

No porchettas (or porchetta sandwiches, for all that matters) were tasted during our 2010 Eurotrip. Feel free to clobber us as you see fit in the comments.

And what IS porchetta?  Picture this: a pig is deboned and carefully arranged into a log that perfectly showcases the meat, fat, crisped skin and any aromatics used for stuffing it.   The traditional seasoning for Italian porchetta includes rosemary, sage, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds.  Citrus slices are layered for sweetness and acidity.

porchetta seasoning

Girl makes mock porchetta at home almost four years later.  :-)

A popular way to make porchetta is to wrap a piece of center cut pork loin with a slab of pork belly.  The porchetta project began with probably the toughest task:  finding pork belly in Puerto Rico.  This is nearly impossible at retail, so it helps to have a restaurant supplier on your contact list.  Even if you are not a professional, many wholesalers will sell or make arrangements to sell smaller amounts of any specialty meats or products, or have retail outposts.   It never hurts to ask.  Buying  a 12-pound slab of pork belly may seem like a lot, but there are many ways to use it and it keeps well in the freezer.  I want to braise some Korean style and cure my own bacon with the leftovers.

Back to the porchetta… To get the crisp skin to rival any lechón worth its name, the pork belly is scored on the meat side.   Piercing the skin with a paring knife, letting it ‘dry’ in the refrigerator overnight and baking the roast for the first 40 minutes at 500˚F are also key to achieve that coveted cuerito.

sliced porchetta
sliced porchetta
One interesting tidbit I learned while making this is the differences between fennel seed and anise seed.  Fennel seeds and anise seeds both have the same licoricey taste.  Fennel seeds, originating from the plant of the same name, are larger and milder.  More fragant anise seeds are the only edible parts of the anise plant.  Since the flavor of the smaller anise seeds is stronger, I cut back from the Bon Appétit recipe by 1 tablespoon.  I also bumped up the amounts of garlic, but that’s because we are used to infusing pork with a strong garlicky flavor.  Come the holiday season, swap the seasonings and citrus from the original Bon Appetit for the adobo in my friend Rebeca’s pernil, and get ready for the accolades.

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Author:Adriana

Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

5 Responses to “The Porchetta Project”

  1. June 14, 2014 at 2:16 am #

    I have made this a few times and people go crazy. You did a great job. Looks deliciously amazing.

    • June 14, 2014 at 7:55 am #

      It was such a crowd pleaser! Y el arroz con cebolla que hice con los leftovers… ni te cuento! Un beso!

  2. Cher
    June 14, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    Adriana! Wow’! This looks amazing

  3. June 16, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    This looks fantastic, Adriana! Can I come for leftovers? Great job!

    • June 16, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      This is what happened to the leftovers, Kathy. Unfortunately the crispy skin can be enjoyed only on the day it is roasted, but it makes a delicious base for this onion rice pilaf.

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