Friday, May 21, 2010

Porchetta with roasted fennel, salsa verde, and smokey pork broth

During the butchering demo at Mado, the chef described a porchetta dish that they had been running as a special for a while. It sounded so good that I had to give it a shot. Porchetta comes in various shapes and sizes, but it always involve a big hunk of pork, stuffed with something and slow roasted.
Roasted fennel makes a nice accompaniment to this dish. Roasting fennel completely changes it's flavor, mellowing it out and bringing out its natural sweetness. The pork shoulder that I used for the porchetta had a really strong, porky flavor to it, so the sweetness of the fennel provided a nice counterpart. I also added some sweetness to the dish by mixing raisins into the sausage stuffing.
This dish takes a long time, but the actual active prep time is fairly minimal. Start by getting yourself a nice big pork shoulder, preferably skin on. You can also just use a pork loin, but thats a pretty lean cut, so you'll need to be more careful with your cooking time. If you are using a shoulder, remove the bone (here's where I used some of the butchering tips I picked up at the Mado demonstration), and cut it so that it can be rolled out in one flat piece. Look up a recipe for you favorite pork brine, and let the meat brine over night, or as long as your recipe says it should (you don't want to leave it in the brine too long...I've ruined a couple roasts this way).

I had some pork fat in the fridge, so I used this to make a spread that would add some fat and flavor to the porchetta. I melted the fat and added a few cloves of smashed garlic confit and a bunch of chopped rosemary and thyme. I poured this mixture into the bowls of the stand mixer and then let it sit in the fridge for a little while until it began to set, then I removed it and whipped it into a spread using the mixer. After the pork was brined, I spread this mixture all over the inside, added raisins and a layer of sausage that had been sitting in the freezer since the confit collective dinner, rolled it up and tied it together.

I roasted it at about 275F until the the center of the porchetta was 160F. This took about 5 hours, but the time will vary according to the size of the roast. Next time I do this, I'll probably bring the heat down to 250F and cook it for longer (~8 to 10 hours). I might also try basting the roast more frequently and finishing it with a blast of super high heat. I think it takes a long time for the skin to get crispy, and it was nowhere near edible on this version. At least it looks pretty.
To serve, slice off big chunks, top with a piece of roasted fennel and some salsa verde and serve in a shallow bowl with pork broth.

To make the pork broth, I followed a pretty standard stock recipe, using pork neck bones (which I roasted beforehand) as the meat, but I added the fennel fronds that I had reserved from the roasted fennel and a smoked ham hock, which adds a nice smokey hint to the stock. I let the stock simmer all day, then I reduced it to about 1/3 of its original volume to get a really rich, flavorful broth.

Not only is this dish great right out of the oven, it makes awesome sandwiches. We had a ton of leftover, so we had porchetta sandwiches for lunch all week. Yum.

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