"For the first time I know what it is to eat. I have gained four pounds. I get frantically hungry, and the food I eat gives me lingering pleasure. I never ate before in this deep carnal way...I want to bite into life and to be torn by it." (Anaïs Nin, author) What would life be like if every meal (or at least one meal a day) we ate was one that made both our heads and hearts race? Ones leaving us momentarily speechless so we could just take in the moment. Or making us forget all of those fast-food, frozen entree, junk food, mystery meat, or spaghetti-dinner meals we had ever eaten. Could such a life even be possible? The answer to those questions depends on whether or not you really, truly believe anything is possible. (I believe.) Great food doesn't always have to be labor or time intensive, but great food almost always needs great ingredients (unless you believe you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear). And with fresh ingredients so readily accessible nowadays, the making of great food is always possible.
Okay, a Pollyanna as I can be sometimes be, let me show a moment of practicality. We may not always have time in our busy lives to turn every meal into a memorable moment. I do get that. Getting up early or working late doesn't always leave us with enough energy to even want to make a mess in the kitchen. The hecticness or stresses of the day can temporarily zap our culinary creativity causing us to even forget how to make creamy scrambled eggs. But most of us have a little more discretionary time on the weekends (that is, if we don't overextend ourselves) to create those 'don't want to leave the table' kind of memorable meals for family and friends. If you are looking for that best use of one's time in the making of one of those meals, make this Porchetta-Style Roast Pork.
In Italy, porchetta traditionally refers to spit-roasting a deboned and stuffed baby pig seasoned with fennel, garlic, rosemary, and lemon. But the last time I checked no one surprised me by having a wood-burning oven installed in the backyard. However, this rich, moist, flavorful Porchetta-Style Roast Pork has all of the intense flavors without as much work. After one bite of the warm pork along with a bite of the garlic and spice rubbed crust, my friend's husband described the experience as an 'oral orgasm'. I found this to be one of the most simultaneously hilarious and disturbing food reviews I had ever heard. Although truth be told, this also ranks up there as one of the best compliments ever received. For those of you who, like me, have had only gray, on the dry side pork roasts or those over cooked, tough pork chops, maybe its' time to give your taste buds and mouth an incredibly pleasurable experience.
The Porchetta-Style Roast Pork is easy to make, however, it is a two-day process as the pork needs to marinate overnight (24 hours) before it goes into the oven. The grocery store just happened to have pork shoulder on sale this past week (although its' relatively inexpensive when not on sale). The Bon Appetit recipe called for a boneless pork shoulder, however, the bone-in pork shoulders were the ones on sale. Not a problem as I adjusted (increase) the roasting time (which had the added benefit of increasing the amount of aroma time). The marinade or rub for the pork is made with toasted fennel seeds, black peppercorns, Aleppo pepper (or dried crushed red pepper), kosher salt and garlic. The combination of these spices not only creates incredible flavor to the meat and transforms the top of the roast into something most at the table will want to fight over. Be careful to who you give a knife to at the table.
Fennel is one of those highly aromatic, ancient Mediterranean spices. Toasting the fennel seeds makes their flavor stronger and spicier. In a small skillet over medium heat, two tablespoons of fennel are stirred constantly until slightly darker in color and their aroma is released (approximately 4-5 minutes). Once cooled, they are combined with the black peppercorns, (coarse) kosher salt and Aleppo pepper in a food mill or food processor and processed to a medium-fine consistency (but not ground to a fine powder).
After rubbing the pork with the minced garlic, the spice mixture is rubbed into it. After loosely covering the pork with wax paper, refrigerate overnight (24 hours).
The marinated roast is removed from the refrigerator for about an hour before going into a preheated 450 degree (F) oven. Brush the baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil and evenly drizzle an additional two tablespoons over the roast. After the pork roasts at 450 degrees (F) for thirty minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. The roast will continue to cook for 3 - 3 1/2 hours (time for 5-6 deboned pork shoulder) or 4 - 4 1/2 hours (time for a bone-in 7 - 8 pound pork shoulder) until it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees at the thickest part of the roast. At 190 degrees the pork becomes perfectly sliceable, almost pull apart tender. Allow the roast to rest for 15-30 minutes before slicing and serving. See notes below regarding internal temperature of the porchetta.
I don't remember when I learned not all carrots were orange, but they could be yellow or red and equally as sweet when roasted at a high temperature. The roasted orange, yellow, and red carrots complimented the Porchetta-Style Roast Pork perfectly. So would some homemade applesauce or mashed potatoes. Put out some great bottles of white wine and be prepared for everyone to linger around the table for longer than usual. If you have never been a big fan of pork roasts, you definitely will after making this one as the long, slow cooking process makes for an incredibly moist pork roast. Perfect to serve for company or even more perfect to make while you are binge watching your favorite shows (the third season of House of Cards starts this weekend).
Note: Any leftover pork would make for great pulled-pork sandwiches. Shred the meat before refrigerating.
Porchetta-Style Roast Pork (inspired by the recipe shared in the Bon Appetit, June 2010 issue)
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or dried crushed red pepper)
5 1/2 - 6 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt) or a 7 1/2 - 8 pound pork shoulder bone-in (roasting time will be longer)
6-7 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pan
1. Place fennel seeds in a small skillet. Over medium-high heat stir frequently until slightly darker in color and fragrant (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a spice mill or small food processor.
2. Add kosher salt, peppercorns, and Aleppo pepper. Grind to a medium-fine consistency (not powder).
3. Place pork in a baking pan/dish. Rub minced garlic all over pork. Then coat with spice mixture.
4. Loosely cover rubbed pork with wax paper and refrigerate overnight (approximately 24 hours).
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F). Remove refrigerated roast and allow to sit out at room temperature for an hour before placing in the oven.
6. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil. Place roast, fat side up and rub intact, in the center of the sheet. Drizzle evenly with 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
7. Roast pork for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees (F) and continue to roast until very tender and thermometer reaches 180 degrees (F) (approximately 3 - 3 1/2 hours). Note: If roasting a 7 1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder baking time could range from 4 - 4/12 hours.
8. Transfer roasted pork to cutting board. Allow to rest 15-30 minutes before slicing.
9. Serve with roasted carrots, applesauce, and/or mashed potatoes.
Notes: (1) The Bon Appetit recipe called for requiring the roast to have an internal temperature of 190 degrees, however, after making this porcetta twice, the roast is sliceable, juicy and perfect with an internal temperature of 180 degrees. (2) To make a gravy, pour and scrape all of the pan juices/bits into a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup white wine. Mix 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of whole milk until smooth. Cook juices/wine over medium heat. Slowly add flour/milk mixture. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth. Add additional wine as necessary to reach preferred consistency. Season only with pepper.
A Winter day in Northern Wisconsin.