Saturday, August 2, 2008

Panzano Porchetta

You might say porketta.. I say porchetta, but no matter how you slice it.. it's absolutely scrumptious! A couple of years ago we spent a month in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Each day we would visit a new hill town and explore the villages and marketplaces along the way, picking up the the freshest of ingredients, that we would buy for our evening meal.

My favorite of all all the markets was in Panzano. Panzano in Chianti.. located mid-way between Florence and Sienna, with it's beautiful hill-top location overlooking some of the most marvelous views of rural Tuscany & magnificent vineyards. With land as rich as it is, temperate climate coupled with a region abundant in produce of both soil & sea it's no wonder the classic culinary delights remain in the characteristic cuisine of Tuscany. Along with it's vegetable, cheese and sausage vendors, was the porchetta truck. This alone was worth the trip! Crowds stand ten deep to place their orders for this specialty..porchetta roasts and sandwiches. Warm slices of tender herbed roasted pork just waiting to melt in your mouth, piled high into a marvelous sandwich.

Now I realize most of us seldom have the opportunity to roast a whole pig over charcoal nor visit Panzano in Chianti.. but you can come pretty darn close right in your own kitchen. In our family, the herb mixture is always the subject of debate and you can add whatever you prefer, but most Italian cooks would agree, rosemary, garlic, fennel, peppercorns and sage are a must. I like to prepare my porchetta the day before I am going to roast it. I find really intensifies the flavor so much more.
Recently, I submitted my family recipe to a local restaurant here that is holding a 'sandwich contest'. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it gets picked.. first prize is a 10 day stay in Tuscany! You just know I wasn't going to pass up this contest :) So here's my submission and family recipe.

6 lb bonessless pork loin roast- butterflied into thirds (easier to roll it this way)
10-12 garlic cloves - smashed
2 TBLS olive oil
4 TBLS ground fennel seed - leave few whole
2 TBLS sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
5 fresh sage leaves, diced fine
ground black peppercorns - leave a few whole
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp shallots,diced fine
zest of one lemon

To prepare Porchetta:
Open the pork roast. Smash garlic cloves slightly and sprinkle randomly over the meat. (It may seem like a lot of garlic, but you'll be surprised how mild the flavor will be once cooked)
Sprinkle the sea salt, ground peppercorns evenly over the meat, then sprinkle the ground fennel seed, oregano, rosemary, shallots, sage, rosemary sprig, a good drizzle of olive oil & zest of one lemon.
Now roll the meat up tightly in a jellyroll fashion. Rub olive oil and extra mix over the surface of the roast and tie securely all around roast with butchers twine. Now put your seasoned, rolled & tied roast in aluminum foil into refrigerator overnight. This is the key to making a really good porchetta.. to develop the flavors. Bring to room temperature two hours before roasting.

When your are ready to cook the roast, bake in 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 foil, then raise temperature to 400 F and cook unfoiled 1 -1 1/2 hour longer, until very golden browned.
Cut off the butchers strings & discard. Allow the roast to stand at least two hours before slicing. I roasted potatoes, fennel bulb, carrots & garlic in porchetta drippings as a side.

For the panini:
Use a good crusty Italian peasant bread slices, lightly brushed with olive oil
Layer sandwich with as many slices of porchetta that will fit & season lightly with sea salt & pepper & grill in medium hot skillet until toasted on both sides.

* I prefer my porchetta sandwich served cold..(ungrilled), stacked high with thin slices of porchetta, with just lettuce & sliced tomato & provolone.. wrapped in butcher paper to be savored with a nice glass of wine. :+).. but that's just me!

Variations: If served grilled/panini.. add a bit of pesto drizzle to the sandwich, or sliced portabella mushrooms.. or simply good imported provolone cheese... or even a nice balsamic.
I've assembled roast porchetta in flatbreads, panini, rolls & wraps.. any way you serve it, it's yummy!! Mangia! Hope you enjoy!


Susan said...

I love porchetta! We spent some time in Ariccia where porchetta is a staple. Thanks for the recipe.

Dr. Pescado said...

I am making this recipe me know. Btw, a 1950s version of this recipe is widely used in northeastern pennsylvannia where a large portion of the population are italian immigrants. Instead of pesto, a relish is used since fresh basil was probably hard to come by most of the year. Anyway, thanks for the info. Look forward to my Porchetta (backhome pronounced "pork-ette") sandwich!