I had a serious craving this week for porchetta. Not just any run of the mill porchetta I really wanted porchetta from The Stockyards. IF you are ever in Toronto go. Go for the porchetta and rapini sammie, go for the fried chicken go for the green chili burger … seriously just go and have everything on the menu. You will thank me. Unfortunately due to some commitments I can`t get to Toronto this week. So whats a BBQ lady to do….. make her own porchetta.
I started with a thinly sliced cored fennel bulb, a couple stalks of celery, onions, lots of garlic and some olive oil. I sweated them out till nice and soft. I added some additional fennel seeds (crushed in a mortar & pestle) salt & pepper with some oregano, parsley and shredded basil. I also added a tablespoon of red chili flakes and a couple of minced jalapeños.
I set this aside to cool completely and moved on to prepping a fresh pork belly. These are readily available at Highland farms. They always have them and they are very reasonably priced. The belly was scored very deeply. The reason I did this was to allow as much smoke to penetrate into the porchetta. I wanted to have a very prominent smoke flavor as part of the porchetta I was creating. In addition to prepping the belly I also zested 3 lemons and finely minced two packages of rosemary. Once the belly was scored I mixed the rosemary & lemon zest with enough olive oil to make a paste. Fifteen cloves of garlic were slivered and added to the mix. I was looking for big bold flavorful porchetta cracklin. The last step was a very generous sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Once that side was completely seasoned I covered it in plastic wrap and laid on a tea towel. I flipped the whole kit and caboodle over to work on the interior. One of the key flavors I wanted to come through with the porchetta was fennel. I had read on a few boards and posts that fennel pollen was the key. I tried to find some locally to no avail so I substituted ground fennel. I ground it to a fine powder and seasoned the belly with it. The next step was a substitution as well. I wanted pancetta on the inside of the belly. However I made a commitment to my freezers to empty them out this year completely so I have given up buying anything I have a reasonable substitute for. Bacon was my answer. Not a lot just a few slices. Double smoked good quality bacon.
Now for the interior meat. There were lots of things I could have used – ground pork, sausage, or pork loin were a few options I entertained. However once again freezer inventory came into play. I have over 100lbs of pork butt in just one of my freezers. It just made sense to use them for the interior. So I pulled out a package of two a few days ago.
The pork butts that I have all have bones. The first step was to debone the butts something I do very infrequently. It wasn`t pretty but I did get the job done. The next part was to decide what parts and muscles of the butts I would use. I decided on the money muscles from each and some from around the bone . The remaining parts of the butt and the bones are going to be used in a posole soup.
At this point its all about tying this little piggie up and leaving it to marinate for the night. It was massive. Very heavy and barely fit on my largest of commercial baking pans. Off to the garage for the night.
Earlier today I pulled my little piggie out and put it on one of my Traeger grills. I admit. I wussed out. I had planned on finishing it on the charcoal weber performer but with -10C and snow falling I finished it completely on the Traeger.
For the first 4 hours it was at 225F then for the remaining hour it was 375F. I used apple and hickory pellets. I pulled it when the internal temperature was 160F.
It was absolutely delicious. Truly one of the best things I have made in the last couple of years. Everyone in our house including our almost vegetarian daughter loved it.
However that is not the only part of this story…… the reason that this is the most expensive porchetta I will ever make is due to the yummy yummy crackling. I can`t resist it. I saw some beautiful crunchy pieces on the porchetta that I had to have. As I was indulging in its salty crust and beautiful texture and full flavored pork goodness…. I heard a crunch. It wasn`t from the pork. Instantly I knew… I had broken a tooth. So be warned. This is a delicious recipe but it may just cost you a tooth. ( I still think it was worth it)