One of the guilty pleasures of my Italian travels has been the porchetta sandwich which is sold from food trucks in farmers’ markets and outside of football stadiums. Calvin Trillin describes such things as "foods of longing and regret." Porchetta originated in Umbria and 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. It took me a long time but I finally figured out a good way to duplicate it at home without the entire smiling Piggly Wiggly. 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 unsatisfactory. But a picnic shoulder works perfectly. Typically this is served without condiments (depending on where you happen to be). But I like to serve it to my guests with some salsa verde on the side. Excellent for informal entertaining. —pierino
Porchetta (the pig)
fresh pork picnic shoulder, bone in (you will bone it out or your butcher will do it). If you are deft with a boning knife it's not difficult.
fistful of kosher salt
ground white pepper
bunch fresh chives, chopped (optional)
fennel pollen, or alternatively fennel seed ground in a spice grinder. See note below.
branches fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
good olive oil
white wine (for basting)
or 8 crusty Italian sandwich rolls
Salsa Verde (Italian style)
bunch flat leaf parsley
anchovy filets either salt packed (rinsed) or in oil (avoid 'pizza' anchovies!).
In a bowl, mix the "pig" herbs together with the olive oil.
Once you have boned out that handsome shoulder (you saved the bone, right) spread it open and slash the skin in a diamond shape pattern, like two 'x's, but don't cut all the way through to the meat. 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 (see what I mean?). Rub about ¾ of the herb and olive oil mixture into the flesh. If you have the edible flowers from your rosemary (that's an option) add them now before assembly. Meanwhile preheat oven to 450?.
Reform the ham and then tie it up like a salami or a fetish model, using one long single piece of cooking twine.
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 350?. Baste every 20 minutes with more wine and pan juices until the internal temp reaches 145?. Allow to rest, covered for at least 10 minutes before slicing very thinly.
Now while your pig is cooking/resting make the salsa verde; you can do this by hand but having a food processor helps. Chop the parsley, garlic, and anchovies just enough to break them down. Add to the bowl of a food processor with the oil and vinegar and just pulse until smooth. Set this aside as your condiment.
Heat the rolls in your still warm oven. Carve the pig thinly, keeping as much crispy skin intact as possible. Your guests can use the salsa as they like (the anchovies are throughly disguised in greeness and goodness).
Note to cook; fennel pollen is amazing. Ground fennel seed is an adequate but weak, in comparison, substitute. Glad to see it in the " food52 shop".
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.