PorchettaFor a show-stopping holiday meal, nothing beats a porchetta.
Porchetta was introduced to the US by Italian immigrants who brought the tradition with them when they came to the United States. At it’s most basic, porchetta is an Italian pork roast that is seasoned generously with garlic, fennel, and other herbs then rolled, tied, and roasted. Traditionally it’s made with a skin-on pork middle and roasted until the skin turns a dark brown so it breaks off into crunchy hard-to-resist pieces of pork flavor. Porchetta can be a huge piece of meat which makes it perfect for a large crowd. And, because of the high quantity of fat found in the belly section, the meat is moist and flavorful. The leftovers also make the base for some amazing sandwiches.

Making an authentic porchetta can be challenging for the average home cook for a couple of reasons. The first is that finding a skin-on pork belly at your typical store or butcher shop can be difficult. It usually requires a special order to bring on in. If you are willing to think a bit outside the box, you can still make a moist flavorful porchetta that is just as tasty bu using other parts of the pig that are more readily available—such as a skin-on pork shoulder or a boneless half leg of pork. Or, for even more variety, you can use a boned-out rabbit to make a smaller version. Turkey is also an option.

The second reason porchetta can be challenging is refrigerator space. Porchetta can require anywhere from 1 to 3 days in the refrigerator to ensure that the flavors penetrate throughout the meat. The wait is worth it but it’s is best to plan ahead. Also, even if you decide to go with a pork shoulder, remember that this is still a big piece of meat and your refrigerator needs to be able to handle it.

The traditional flavors for porchetta consist of garlic, fennel, and rosemary. But, you can definitely get creative and substitute those flavors for something more Cuban with cumin, orange zest, and pimento. A little lemon zest and thyme would be tasty as well.

If you’re up for the challenge and looking for something different for your holiday dinner, check out our recipe for Porchetta Pork Roast. It’s a simplified version of the classic.

Porchetta Pork Roast
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
Serves 8 to 12

1 (7- to 8-pound) bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder roast, or a 6 to 7-pound boneless roast, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch thickness
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
5 garlic cloves, grated or mashed to a paste
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the pork
Score the skin and the fat all over the pork. Take care not to cut down to the meat.

Prepare the herbs and seasoning
In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine the fennel fronds, rosemary, sage, garlic, orange zest, salt, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Pour in the oil and pulse or mash until it forms a paste.

Rub the herb mixture all over the pork. If you are using a boneless roast, tie the roast with kitchen string at 2-inch intervals. Transfer the roast to a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

Roast the porchetta
Remove the pork from your refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you want to cook it. Heat the oven to 450 ºF.

Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 ºF and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 180 ºF. (an additional 2 hours and 45 minutes up to 4 hours) This will give you sliceable, tender meat. Note that bone-in roasts will take longer than boneless ones.

Serve the porchetta roast
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing. Make certain that everyone gets some of the cracklings!

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