Tuscan Porchetta

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Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 260 minutes
Servings: 8

A dramatic main course for a special dinner party, porchetta is a specialty of Tuscany, where is it often made using a deboned, stuffed and roasted whole pig. Here is a version for home cooks made with pork belly. And, because the pork must be seasoned and rolled one or two days before cooking it, this impressive dish is perfect for entertaining, since the last-minute prep is minimal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. peppercorns
  • 2 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 meaty skin-on pork belly, about 6 lb. (3 kg)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 lb. (750 g) new potatoes
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) wedges, fennel fronds reserved
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) wedges

Directions:

In a small fry pan over medium heat, combine the peppercorns and fennel seeds. Toast, tossing frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and finely grind. (Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to crush the toasted spices.) Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the rosemary, thyme, sugar, red pepper flakes and 2 Tbs. salt. Set aside.

Place the pork belly on a large cutting board, skin side down. Using a very sharp knife, carefully score the flesh on the diagonal. Rotate the cutting board 90 degrees and score in the same way to create a diamond pattern. Rub the pork evenly with the garlic, then rub with the spice mixture, using your fingers to rub the spices into the score lines.

Cut 12 pieces of kitchen twine, each about 18 inches (45 cm) long. Places the pieces of twine on a work surface parallel to each other and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.

Rotate the pork belly so a short side is facing you, then roll it tightly into a log. Place the pork belly on top of the strings, seam side down. Then, starting with the outer strings, tie the strings tightly around the pork. Trim the excess string.

In a small bowl, combine the baking powder and 1 Tbs. salt. Rub the mixture all over the surface of the pork. Wrap the pork tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let rest 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 300°F (150°C).

Place the pork on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 160°F (71°C), about 2 hours, basting the pork with the pan drippings about every 30 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). Spread the potatoes, fennel and onions evenly in the bottom of the roasting pan and return the pan to the oven. Continue roasting until the pork and vegetables are tender, about 2 hours. (To test the pork, using a sharp knife, cut through the crispy skin; the pork underneath should yield easily to the tip of the knife.) Increase the oven temperature to 500°F (260°C) and continue to roast until the pork skin is very crisp and deeply browned, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a carving board, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Coarsely chop some of the reserved fennel fronds to yield about 1/4 cup chopped fronds.

To serve, remove the string from the pork and carve the pork into slices. Divide the pork and roasted vegetables among individual plates, garnish with the fennel fronds and serve. Serves 8.

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