Now that another year is coming to a close, you may be thinking about what to prepare for Christmas dinner. We decided to cook a roast this year that was reminiscent of Italian traditions: Porchetta, a roast of pork belly seasoned with herbs and roasted until the skin was crispy and crackling.
WHAT IS PORCHETTA?
Porchetta is a succulent roast that is boneless and fatty, and it is marinated in a mixture of aromatic herbs (such as rosemary) and sometimes fennel.
While it is delicious when served hot, it is more common to find it cold and sliced for sandwiches. The flavor profile of Porchetta is perhaps more recognizable to you from “Italian roast pork” sandwiches.
THIS IS OUR VERSION
Toasted fennel, garlic, sage, and rosemary give our pork belly rolls a distinctive flavor, and they are the main ingredients in our rendition of Porchetta.
To ensure a juicy inside and plenty of crispy skin when roasting pork belly, the skin is scored and pierced. Traditionally, Porchetta is slow-roasted, but we’ve developed a technique that yields the same delicious results in just 2 1/2 hours.
Like a change from the traditional holiday roast?
- 5 to 6 pound of fresh boneless lean pork belly with skin on
- 4 cloves of grated or finely minced garlic
- 1 large sliced onion
- 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons of minced fresh sage
- 1½ tablespoons of minced fresh rosemary
- 1½ tablespoons of sea salt or Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of toasted and coarsely ground fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- To prepare the pork belly, lightly score the skin in a diagonal checkerboard pattern, leaving 1 inch between score lines. Be careful not to sever the muscle from the fat layer beneath the skin. For optimal crispiness and crackling, score it just enough so that the skin breaks while roasting!
- Using a two-pronged roasting fork or a metal kebab skewer, pierce holes in the bottom of the pork belly that is 1 inch deep and spaced about 1 inch apart.
- Marinade paste can be made by combining ground fennel seeds, sage, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, rosemary, salt, sugar, black pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil. Roasting your own fennel seeds on a dry pan results in a magnificent explosion of flavor. Over medium heat, they toast quickly, so be careful not to burn them.
- The marinade should be rubbed all over the pork belly, including the sides and skin. When you’re ready to cook the pork belly, marinate it as usual, then lay it skin-side up on a baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 24 hours. In order to achieve the best results, marinating for 12 hours is recommended.
- After a night in the fridge, take the pig belly out the following day and let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. When the oven is cold, set the rack in the lower third and heat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You’re now ready to roll your pork belly into the classic porchetta shape. Place the pork belly skin side down on a plate. Roll the pork belly from one side to the other, starting from the uncut side. Because of the thickness of the incision, it’s more of a fold than a roll. Have your butcher string ready, and knot the roast numerous times around the roast, about 1 inch apart.
- The sliced onions should be spread out on a baking sheet with just enough water to cover them. On top, place the roast. If there are any remaining herbs and spices on top of the pork roast, brush them off the skin and lay them on the sides to prevent them from burning.
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F for 15 minutes. Roast for another 15 minutes after rotating the roasting pan at 180 degrees. Reduce the heat to 325°F and continue to roast for another 2 hours.
- Every 20 minutes, check the pan and add enough water to keep the pan juices from burning. It’s critical not to let the pan drippings burn because you’ll be serving your porchetta with them.
- After 2 1/2 hours in the oven, the skin of the porchetta should be a somewhat dark golden brown, with diagonal scores visible. The skin may appear crisp at this point, but if it is still smooth, it is likely to be tough and leathery. Turn the oven temperature back up to 450°F to make the porchetta skin cracklin’ and crispy.
- Once the oven reaches 450°F, continue to roast the porchetta for 10 to 15 minutes, checking it every 5 minutes or until the skin bubbles up. When the skin on top of the roast begins to bubble, place a long but narrow sheet of foil on top of the roast lengthwise to cover the top end-to-end, leaving the sides exposed to high heat. Continue to roast until the skin on both sides has a bubbling, crackling appearance.
- Use your own discretion when it comes to crisping up the skin. The usual rule of thumb is that if the skin is bubbled up, it will be crispy, and if the skin is reasonably smooth, it will still be tough and leathery. After 15 minutes in the oven, take the roast out and let it rest.
- After the roast has rested, carefully cut and remove the butcher’s thread, which will be adhered to the skin. Transfer the roast to a serving plate and cut the roast into 1 1/2-inch thick slices where the string was attached.
- Drain the juices from the pan into a gravy separator. Pour hot water into the pan to deglaze it first if you want more pan juices. Serve the fluids on the side in a dish or small gravy pitcher.