Porchetta, as we recently discovered, is having its moment in Los Angeles. Or maybe it's having another moment, as the glorious Italian ode to pig is hardly a recent discovery. The roasted pork dish had been gracing Italian menus, Italian food trucks and rustic Italian kitchens for a long time before it hit the restaurant scene in L.A. And of course chefs here have been cooking the stuff for years. Don Dickman has been making porchetta for over a decade, at his now-shuttered Santa Monica restaurant Rocca since it opened in 2003, and at Barbrix, which debuted in Silver Lake four years ago.
Dickman's porchetta, he recently told us in Barbrix's tiny open kitchen, is easily adapted for the home cook -- not least because it is not made with a whole pig, suckling or otherwise. (Although he did make the dish with a 100-lb. pig at Rocca.) These days, Dickman uses a Niman Ranch pork shoulder, which he seasons, ties, covers, then puts into an oven for about four hours. That's more or less it. There are a couple tricks -- not because porchetta is a tricky dish, but because there are always tricks to the best dishes -- most of which involve fennel pollen. Find it, buy it, use it, and do so very liberally. That's about it for tricks. "The simpler it is," says Dickman, who has logged many hours as a culinary instructor, "the more likely you are to cook it."
Dickman points out that porchetta is a forgiving dish, one that can be altered and changed to suit your tastes and your pantry. If you don't like thyme, use sage. Use a bigger piece of pork if you want, though probably not a smaller one. If it's cooking too fast, put foil on it. Cook it hours ahead of time, or days -- the stuff is terrific in sandwiches, even between tortillas. And because porchetta is a dish that is excellent as a feast, Dickman gave us not only his recipe for the pig, but for a few excellent accompaniments: the traditional salsa verde, slow-roasted rapini, and a pot of glorious beans with tomatoes and sage. So if you get tired of the weekend crowds at Bestia or Angelini Osteria -- or at Barbrix, where Dickman often has porchetta as a special -- go to the market, invite some friends over, and throw your own party.
From: Don Dickman of Barbrix
Note: Dickman doesn't recommend using a roast under 4 lbs. Also for such a long cooking time a smaller roast just will not have enough internal area and could end up dry and tough. Don't worry, the chef says that it makes great sandwiches the next day.
1 piece of pork shoulder (approx. 4 lbs.), skin on
½ cup garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup wild fennel pollen
¼ cup fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest only, finely grated
1-2 Tbl. kosher salt
1-2 Tbl ground black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1. Pre heat your oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl mix the herbs with the garlic, fennel pollen, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
2. With a short, sharp knife make 20 or so incisions about 1/2" deep all over the pork, through the skin and on the bottom side as well. With your fingers force some of the herb-garlic mixture deeply into all of the incisions.
3. Using kitchen twine tie up the pork until it is in a neat bundle.
4. Rub the pork all over with the olive oil. Then rub the rest of the herb-garlic mixture all over the outside of the pork. Place the pork on rack in a roasting pan big enough to hold it comfortably.
5. Place the pork in the oven and then turn down the heat to 300 degrees after 20 minutes.
6. Roast for another 1 ½ hours and then pour the wine over the pork and continue to cook another 2 hours or so. You want the internal temperature to reach 175 degrees. All of this timing depends on your oven and the size of your roast. You would rather cook it a little more than a little less as it is pretty hard to overcook it. When you think it is done, remove from the oven and let rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before cutting into it.
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