Before heading back to Sacramento for Christmas, we had a Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah/ Winter Solstice dinner with our dear Supper Club friends. Being that the dish served at this dinner would also become our 200th blog post (!!!), we knew that it had to be pork and it had to be good.
We decided on a recipe for mock porchetta from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. You might be wondering what a porchetta is and why the one we made is considered an improvisation. Well, porchetta is an Italian dish wherein an entire pig is deboned, stuffed with herbs and spices and roasted to perfection. I like to cook for a crowd, but an entire hog is out of the question for most home cooks. This recipe borrows the seasoning and cooking method from the traditional recipe, but scales it down to 3 pound pork shoulder proportions—perfect for a holiday meal.
Mock Porchetta with Roasted Vegetables, from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rogers
One 3-pound boneless pork should butt roast (my 3.5 lb roast fed 7 people)
1 T capers, rinsed, dried between two towels and chopped
zest of one lemon
3 garlic cloves, chopped
12 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
2 t fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 t cracked black pepper
1 – 2 pounds vegetables, for roasting (carrots, potatoes, parsnip, turnip, onion)
2/3 cup chicken stock or water
3 T dry vermouth
Judy recommends that you season and tie the pork 2 to 3 days in advance to let the meat absorb the flavors of the seasonings. Absolutely do this. Two to three days before you plan to eat, trim off any discoloration and all but 1/4 inch thick layer of superficial fat. Now you’ll want to trim the roast into one long piece of meat that is 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. The idea is to roll the seasonings into the roast, making a sort of pork butt roulade. Study the seams in the roast and carefully separate the meat into one long piece. In my experience, this was actually much easier than it sounded. Salt the splayed piece of pork on both sides. Judy recommends 1/2 t of salt per pound of meat. The lady knows where it’s at.
In a small bowl, combine capers, zest, garlic, sage, rosemary and most of the fennel seeds and black pepper. It should be about 1/2 cup loosely packed.
Spread and pack this mixture onto one side of the roast. Roll the pork back into its natural shape and then tie 4 – 5 strings around its circumference and one around the length of the roast. Rub the outside of the roast with the remaining fennel seed and black pepper. Put the pork on a plate, cover loosely and refrigerate. I thought my roast was a beaut!
To roast: preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Plan for 2.5 hours of cooking time. Toss your vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper. In a roasting pan or oven-proof skillet (you make a pan sauce later so use a pan you can put on the stove), add the porchetta and surround with vegetables.
Place in the oven. If after 45 minutes, the roast hasn’t begun to color, turn the oven up to 375 degrees. After one hour, turn the roast over and roll the vegetables in the rendered fat. After two hours, turn the roast again and add 1/3 cup of stock. Roast another 15 – 3o minutes, until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees.
Turn the oven to warm. Take the roast out of the oven and put on a cutting board to rest. Cover loosely with foil. Place the vegetables in the oven on a warm platter. Make a sauce of the pan juices. First, tilt the skillet and spoon off any excess fat. Add the remaining 1/3 cup stock and vermouth. Turn the heat to medium low. Scrape and stir to dissolve the caramelized drippings on the bottom and sides of the pan. Continue to skim the fat, until you have a nice porky sauce. Slice the pork, removing the strings as you go. Serve each slice with a spoonful of the pan sauce over the top.
In addition to the roasted vegetables, we also enjoyed potato latkes (thanks Robin!) and a salad of winter greens. Kelly made gingerbread for dessert and Jesse made mexican hot chocolate. It was the most delicious and festive of feasts!
I think this porcetta may be my new go-to holiday dish. It is simple to prepare, but oh so tasty. Plus, it has the particular flare that only dishes that require three days advance preparation can muster. Bottom line: if you want to impress, make this roast.