Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Best Thing I Made in 2011: Porketta

I'm not offering a detailed recipe today. This post is really for my own benefit. I want to document what I did, so I could do it again. I didn't measure anything. This was the best thing I made all year but I'm biased - porketta has been a long time favorite food of mine.

Porketta (or porchetta) has become quite popular recently. I grew up eating porketta - I'm not sure why it took so long to take off. It was popular in NE PA, where I grew up, as a hot roast or sliced cold for sandwiches. You could buy the uncooked roast preseasoned from the meat department of the local supermarket or you could buy it cooked and sliced from the deli deparment. It was sold at church picnics. Huge platters of porketta sandwiches would come out at family gatherings. Now, you can find restaurants in NYC devoted to it. Smart people, the ones who thought of that!

I took it for granted early in life but then I moved away from home and - no porketta. Of course, I know now that I could have found it in Philly, had I known where to look but it wasn't in the grocery stores in Center City. I could at least find pork in the deli, seasoned more lightly but somewhat of a substitute good for sandwiches but then I moved again and I couldn't even get that any longer.

So making my own porketta roast had been on my mind for years. An old friend I had recently reconnected with on Facebook had posted her porketta recipe which really fired me up but I couldn't find her recipe when I went to make it. I decided to completely wing it and try to recreated it from memory. It came out perfect. It's been too long to say if it's the same as the porketta I grew up on but it hit all the right notes. This was definitely one of those 'why-the-hell-didn't-I-do-this-sooner' things. Hopefully I can do it again.

It was just before New Year's so pork roasts were abundant at the supermarket. This recipe needs a bit of fat so I chose a bone-in loin roast but I removed the bones. Lean boneless roast don't have enough fat. Pork butt or shoulder would be better than anything lean but I though this cut was the perfect medium.

(Note:   You can get a decent gravy from just the roast drippings but the bones removed from the bone-in roast can be used to make an even richer pork gravy if you are going all out. I wasn't that ambitious this time and gravy isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy this roast.)

I flattened it out to make a rolled roast. I rubbed the inside with crushed fresh garlic. Then I pulled out a grinder and made a spice blend using dried dill weed, black peppercorns, fennel, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and salt. I wanted dill, garlic and pepper to be the dominant flavors - the other spices were added more sparingly.

I generously covered the inside of the roast with this mixture, then I rolled it and secured it with silicone cooking bands. I rubbed the outside of the roast with the spice mixture (but not fresh garlic - that was only on the inside). I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Then I unwrapped it, added more dried dill and garlic pepper all over the outside (the garlic pepper had additional seasoning in it including salt - I only used it because I had no plain garlic powder but it worked so well, I will probably use it again).

I baked it at 325 for 2, maybe 3 hours. I don't know exactly how big the roast was but it was standard. It started out as about a 6 chop roast. I made sure it was at least 160 degrees.

(WARNING: This smells delicious. My son made about 40 comments while this cooked. He couldn't get over how good it smelled.)

When you first cut it hot, it's kind of sloppy and hard to get a neat slice but it's still delicious.

If you chill it and then slice it, it's prettier.  You can either reheat it or eat it cold.

Now this isn't what porketta is to everyone. Porketta is a seasoned roast pork but there are variations. The spices can be whatever you like. Some people like it fattier, even adding an extra layer of fat to the roast. It doesn't have to be a rolled roast. Some people like to serve it shredded. Let's face it, if you take a nice piece of pork and season it well and cook it slowly until it's tender, you can't really go wrong.

(P.S. I am trying to figure out Pinterest. I can't get this 'Pin it' button to work for me but I don't know why. If anyone tries it and it works (or doesn't), please let me know. For me, it looks like it worked but then I can't see it on my boards, just a red X.)

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Alisha said...

That's just awesome, Paula. I hadn't ever seen or heard of porketta until I moved here to NEPA - your recipe looks simple and delicious though. Thanks for sharing!

Annie at Haphazard Homestead said...

I've eaten lots of pork roast, but haven't eaten it rolled like that or heard it called porketta. It looks good; I think the dill might be what makes all the difference.

I might have to try it. How do you think I'd get a pork butt flat enough to roll? Butterfly it first, maybe? I have a pork loin roast I could use instead, but like you said, it wouldn't be fatty enough.

The Cookbook Junkie said...

The picture in this link shows how I cut the roast.

You want to end up with a flat piece, about about an inch thick.

A pork butt might be more irregularly shaped but you'd still use the same technique.

To me the dill is key because that was the main seasoning of the porketta I grew up eating but some porketta recipes may not use it at all.

Annie at Haphazard Homestead said...

Thanks for the photo. It helps. I guess I just didn't think of cutting it as a sort of spiral, but it would work great.

Sara said...

That looks SO good. When we lived in Calgary we used to go to an Italian market that made porchetta. Haven't had it in years, although I saw a grocery store here recently started carrying a pre-seasoned cook at home porchetta. I will have to buy one! PS I am still reeling over the volume of cookies you made for the holidays. I did not do any baking at all this season.

Mary said...

Long time reader, probably first-time poster ... thanks for the description of porketta. My family roots are in Cincinnati area and I've lived in Washington D.C. for 30 years, but I'd never heard of it until recently. Our local Wegmans stores have a porketta panini offered in their Market Cafe. Now that I know what it is, and think I will like it, I'll try one of them!

I've tried a few recipes from your site and one that I always think of is the cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers. I'm not fond of jalapenos but the 'trick' of boiling them briefly to tone down the heat tempted me into trying them.