January 14th, 2010 by Dawn Becker
If you’re a food person and haven’t been sleeping under a rock you’ve probably seen a copy of Saveur magazine at your local bookstore or supermarket. I’ve been reading it since 1996 and maybe earlier. At a glance, the earliest issue I can see is #11. A shelf from my collection of food magazines that I felt were worth saving whole – meaning not just a random recipe cut out here and there – is shown right. It’s mostly Saveur with a sprinkling of others.
I have always loved the way reading Saveur could transport you in scent, sight, sound and most importantly, taste, to any place they were featuring. I love back stories and as I’m reading about the place and the people and of course the food, I picture myself there. And then I start drooling and that’s actually not good if you’re already in your pyjamas, nicely tucked in. Saveur writers are so eloquent their words will literally force me out of bed to cook in the middle of the night. I have them to blame for the extra pounds accumulated from late night feasting. Thank god for low rise jeans!
I have cooked many dishes that were inspired by Saveur. And with topics that are close to home like Issue #100 where they featured Chinese Red Cooking, I know their stories are deliciously accurate. My permanently grease-stained copy of that issue sticks on page 75 where I frequently reference the recipe for hong shao rou, red-cooked pork belly.
I used to put sticky notes on the pages I wanted to remember and then I found that every other page had a sticky note on it. So now I randomly pick up any issue for inspiration. In their latest issue, Jan/Feb 2010 #126, you’ll find their new Readers Edition of the Saveur 100 where all 100 entries of can’t miss items were submitted by their readers and shown in random order. How cool is that?
So we have Peter Battaglia, Tinton Falls, New Jersey to thank for suggesting Porchetta featured as #58 of the Saveur 100. I made minor modifications to the Saveur Porchetta recipe as I am prone to do, adjusting to my taste preferences and using whatever I have on hand.
The Saveur recipe calls for crushed fennel. I knew Ozana would be coming over and she’s not a fennel fan so I switched that out for cumin. The recipe calls for 3 Tbsp of lemon zest but I only had one small lemon so I added orange zest as well. Also the pork belly I purchased was too short to wrap all the way around the pork loin so I just put the unwrapped portion at the bottom of the pan when I cooked it.
This Saveur method of assembling porchetta where you wrap the pork roast in plastic wrap, then foil, let it rest in the fridge for a day or two, and then roast at 325 degrees F for a few hours, really does produce a succulent pork roast.
I’m not sure why but the rind was bitter. I wonder if that was due to too much baking soda. For some crazy reason I read 1 Tbsp, not 1 1/2 tsp which you can see left a residue on the rind (shown whole below). Oops! By the time I realized it, trying to dust it off was futile. It happens to the best of us.
Thinking back, I did feel leery that the plastic wrap might melt, though the recipe clearly states it won’t. The plastic wrap around the rind was fine but there was some plastic missing on the sides (sorry I didn’t tell you Ozana). I think now it was more likely due to shrinkage as opposed to actual melting. To be safe, I discarded the ends when I sliced it since the ends always cook more than we like anyhow.
So here’s my version of the recipe. You will see that my pork roast is smaller than the Saveur recipe but it was perfect for 6-8 people.
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp orange zest
1 Tbsp ground cumin
8 cloves chopped garlic, more or less as you prefer
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 3 lb trimmed centre cut pork loin (NOTE: Not tenderloin)
1 slab pork belly with rind, preferably long enough to wrap around the pork loin
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Mix together the first four ingredients. Season the pork loin with salt and pepper and set aside. Assemble porchetta by placing pork belly rind-side down on your work surface. Score the pork belly meat and rub the garlic mixture in. Place pork loin on top of the pork belly. Roll it up and tie with kitchen string. Remember not to worry if the pork belly doesn’t go all the way around. If the pork loin sticks out on the sides, slice off the excess. (TIP: Save excess slices and use to make cutlets or cook in a stir fry.) Wrap the porchetta in plastic wrap, then foil and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.
Remove from fridge about 2 hours before you want to cook it. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with rack at the bottom of oven. If your pork belly doesn’t go all the way around, place the wrapped porchetta, with the side that has no pork belly at the bottom, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Cook until the roast reads 130 degrees F using an instant read thermometer inserted in the middle, about 2 hours for this roast, remembering that it’s smaller than the one indicated in the Saveur recipe. Remove foil and plastic being careful as the plastic will be hot and steamy. Rub baking soda on the skin and broil on high turning frequently, until the rind is crisp on all sides, about 20 minutes.
NOTES ABOUT THE OVEN RACK: The original Saveur recipe actually says the oven rack should be at the bottom third of the oven. My oven rack heights are divided into fourths so I put it at the bottom. The recipe also does not indicate whether you should raise the rack up higher during broiling so I left it at the bottom. It was taking longer than 20 minutes to broil all of the skin to crispy so far away from the element. I compromised on the skin for the sake of ensuring a juicy roast and took it out at 20 minutes, with only two thirds of the skin as crackly as I wanted. Next time, I would raise the rack up to the middle.