This is not one of the foods of my childhood (I don’t want to reimagine my childhood). This sandwich pre-dates LA’s invention of the food truck. Porchetta originated in Umbria where typically you will see a whole suckling pig (or part of one) spitted in back. The meat is sliced right off of the pig and handed to you on a crusty roll. I first tasted this in chilly, morning market squares and also outside of football stadiums in third division towns prior to going to sit or stand on a cold, concrete bench and watch two anemic teams kick a ball past their own players for 90 minutes with stoppage time added. I can’t tell you how much I love Rome or how much I miss it every day, but the origin is Umbria and not Lazio although on the outskirts of Rome you can find really great porchetta. Like Alberto Sordi I will be interred with an AS Roma scarf.
It literally took me years of work to get it right, but I finally figured out a good way to duplicate it at home without the entire Piggly Wiggly (who you might see smiling at you from the window of a butcher shop in Rome or Gubbio). One of the things I like about this preparation is that you get a toothsome bit of crispy skin with almost every slice. I’ve seen other recipes using pork loin and found them to be totally unsatisfactory. But a picnic shoulder works just mighty fine because you really need that crispy skin and unctuous pig fat.
Typically this is served without condiments (depending on where you happen to be). But I like to offer it to my guests with some salsa verde on the side. This is my “go to” dish when I have to cook for ten or twenty guests. - pierino
Test Kitchen Notes
When you want to make a spot-on porchetta sandwich look no further: Pierino has a winning rendition. The rosemary, fennel, garlic, and shallot rub make a perfect seasoning for the porky goodness of the picnic shoulder. I got my roast nicely oiled, rubbed, and tied, then popped it into the oven. It didn't take long for my kitchen to be filled with the delectable aroma of the herbs and meat. It took about an hour and a quarter for my roast to be perfectly cooked, the skin brown and crispy, and the meat juicy and unctuous. I allowed it to rest while I made the salsa verde, which was a perfect bright and zesty foil to the rich and fatty pork. Not being a fish lover I was reluctant to incorporate the anchovies, but Pierino convinced me to do so, and I'm glad I did. They did not add fishiness; they just made the salsa verde more tasty. The only change I will make next time I make this (and there most definitely will be a next time) is to trim some of the fat from the pork as it was a bit excessive for my taste. - hardlikearmour —hardlikearmour
6 to 8
Porchetta (the pig)
Fresh pork picnic shoulder, bone in, about 5 pounds (you will bone it out or your butcher will do it for you). If you are reasonably deft with a boning knife it’s not difficult.
fistful of sea salt
1 TBS white pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots minced
2 TBS fennel pollen, or alternatively fennel seed finely ground in a spice grinder.
Several branches of fresh rosemary (tear the leaves off, and if possible pick the flowers if any). Finely chop the leaves and reserve the flowers whole.
1 cup good olive oil and a little more for rubbing.
1 ½ cups white wine for basting.
Many crusty rolls
Salsa Verde (Italian style)
2 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped including the stems, equivalent to 1 cup
5 flat anchovy filets (they have to be of good quality or you spoil the sauce)
1 tablespoon, salt packed capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
1 /2 cup olive oil
In This Recipe
Once you have boned out the ham* spread it open and slash the skin in a diamond shape pattern. Turn it over and slash some pockets into the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat layer. Mix the herbs with all but about 1 tbs of olive oil. Rub about ¾ of the herb and olive oil mixture into the flesh. If you have the edible flowers add them now before the tie up part. Meanwhile preheat oven to 450F.
Reform the ham and then tie it up like a salami or a fetish model, using one long piece of cooking twine. You know how to do that, right? Be sure to keep your seams aligned.
Rub the tied up ham with olive oil and more coarse salt and then more of the herb/oil mix.
Place in a roasting pan and after 20 minutes in the hot oven baste with white wine and turn heat down to about 350F. Baste every 20 minutes with more wine and pan juices until the internal temp reaches 145F. Allow to rest, covered for at least 10 minutes before slicing very thinly. Sandwich this up with crusty bread rolls---no other condiments are required, but I like to serve salsa verde---the Italian version.
In a blender or food processor mix your salsa verde. Everything goes in at once, smoothiness to your own liking.
*Note to cook: *If you have the butcher bone out your ham please do ask to keep the ham bone. Use it for a stock for beans or soup or whatever.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.