Porchetta with Salsa Verde
Porchetta has always intrigued me, as it calls for a nontraditional cut of pork that is very heavy on fat. I’ve learned that it is a wonderful cut for a large and informal gathering, paired with a bright sauce that cuts through the fat. If you have access to a rotisserie, that’s the way to go. Otherwise, an oven-roasted porchetta won’t disappoint.
For the Porchetta:
One 6- to 7-pound pork belly with skin on and center-cut pork loin attached (ask your butcher ahead of time to prepare this for you)
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
6 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked from stems and minced
8 sprigs thyme, leaved picked from stems
1 tablespoon fennel powder, or ground fennel seeds
Zest of 3 lemons
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
For the Salsa Verde:
2 tablespoons capers
1 hard-boiled egg, cut in half
1 small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, leaves picked from stems
1 small bunch chives, minced
1 small bunch tarragon, leaves picked from stems
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves picked from stems
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh ground pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toasted bread, to serve
To make the porchetta:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Let me preface this next step by saying that you can have the butcher do the cutting. If you are doing the cutting yourself, first, slice the skin away from the meat and fat in one piece. You will use the skin to wrap up the whole porchetta later. Now unroll and open up the pork belly by cutting into it to create as much surface area as possible, keeping it in one piece. Lay it flat. (You are more or less butterflying it.) Combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, fennel, lemon zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix well. Rub down the interior of the porchetta (all of the cut pieces) with the marinade and let sit for an hour. Roll the porchetta up tightly and wrap it with the skin. Tie up the skin (around the outside) tightly with three pieces of kitchen string to hold the whole thing together. Place the porchetta on a rack fitted into a roasting pan and move it to the center of the oven. Cook for 45 minutes or until the skin gets nice and crisp. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook for an additional 2 ½ hours. A thermometer inserted into the center of the pork should read 160°F when done.
To make the salsa verde:
Place all the salsa verde ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. The salsa should be spreadable. if it’s too thick, add more olive oil to thin it.
Remove the porchetta from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes so that the juices evenly distribute. Slice the porchetta into ½-inch thick rounds. Serve with salsa verde and some good toasted bread to make simple sandwiches.