My mother made a gigantic porchetta this past Christmas, and coupled with the joy of being home, it was one of the most wonderful and heart-warming meals I've ever eaten. I live on my own--an ocean and half a continent away from her--but I wanted to recreate her magic in my own home and find a way to do it at a much more reasonable scale. At first I tried an all belly porchetta, which was wonderful but just didn't have the right ratio of meat. I went back to my mother's method of using a tenderloin in the middle, but I got a much smaller one to fit my tiny pork belly. My mother's recipe was a tweaked version of one from Chowhound. I changed the scale of hers, tweaked my spices a bit, and added in a technique from Serious Eats chicharrones to help with skin crisping. I was also lazy and cooked my vegetables in the same pan to take advantage of all the yummy rendered fat (unlike my mother who took some of the fat out, and put it in a separate pan to cook her vegetables, which does help to give you a crispier pork belly skin because you're not fighting the moisture released by the vegetables... yeah, mom's always right). —Julie
Dehydrated Pork Belly Skin
Pork Belly (roughly 8in x 12 in or the size of those foam trays they come in)
Dehydrated pork belly (from process above)
Pork tenderloin (try to get it the same length as your pork belly piece)
Place pork belly on a plate/tray (I used a 9x13 baking pan) skin side up.
Combine salt and baking soda in a dish and mix well.
Rub salt and baking soda into pork belly skin. Leave excess of mixture on skin.
Rest pork belly uncovered in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, and up to one day. This process changes the pH level in the skin, dehydrating it and allowing for better crisping and browning in the oven.
Preheat oven to 450 F
Slice garlic into paper thin slices. Do not smash or crush. (Note: Smashing/crushing garlic releases chemicals around their cell walls that react with oxygen to create bitter, more pungent compounds. This is not in itself a terrible thing, but slicing garlic into paper thin slices will produce a sweeter flavor, which is what we are after here.)
Finely chop fresh rosemary
Remove your pork belly from the fridge. Dust off the excess baking soda. Score the skin in a diagonal crisscross pattern about 2in apart and 1/8in deep. (Be careful not to cut down to the meat!) Lay it scored-skin side down on cutting board or clean counter.
Scatter sliced garlic, herbs de Provence, chopped rosemary, chili flakes, garlic salt, and black pepper onto the meat side of the pork belly.
Place pork tenderloin on top of the pork belly and roll to cover. The pork belly does not have to wrap entirely around the tenderloin to meet at the other end. (In fact, it is preferable if it does not if you are adding in root vegetables because the moisture released hampers crisping on the bottom.) Secure with butcher's twine.
Top and tail two large or three regular onions, and then slice in half. Arrange pieces in a baking tray to create a trivet for your porchetta.
Place porchetta on onion trivet. If the pork belly did not wrap all the way around the tenderloin, face the unwrapped section on the onion. Keep as much of the skin exposed as possible.
Place porchetta in oven at 450 F for 40 minutes
Optional: while porchetta is roasting cut up a few potatoes, carrots, radishes, or any other root vegetable your heart desires. Keep all pieces relatively the same size for even cooking. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.
When porchetta has cooked for 40 minutes at 450 F, lower the temperature to 325 F and cook for another 2 hours.
Optional: If you chopped up root vegetables, add them to the pan at this point.
Remove porchetta from oven and raise oven temperature to 500 F.
When oven has reached 500 F, place porchetta back into oven for the final crisping of the skin. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until skin is blistered and golden.
Remove porchetta from oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing. There will be a wonderful amount of drippings in your tray, which may have cooked your vegetables if you threw any in. You can use these drippings to make a gravy or as the fat for starting some delightful Yorkshire puddings (which your oven will be preheated for by the way). You can also reserve the drippings for later use like cooking your eggs or sauteing your veggies--just don't throw it away!
Slice porchetta pieces into 1" rounds and serve. Delicious when served with roasted vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, and gravy! Leftovers are scrumptious in sandwiches.