Another Way To Approach Charity: Consuming For A Cause

October 19th, 2011 by Dawn Becker

I haven’t heard anyone use the old adage “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” in ages but it seems to me that this is also the way to his philanthropic soul. Food-related charity events are quite a trend for non-profits to raise funds and I couldn’t be happier about this.

Events such as Feast For The Fight, a program that my friend Crystal has been helping to promote, is a dining event where host restaurants will donate a portion of their sales from the day to the Canadian Cancer Society. Events like Feast For The Fight allow you to contribute to a good cause by doing nothing more than what you might do on any given Wednesday, having a bite to eat and a few beers somewhere local. Here’s a list of the restaurants participating in tonight’s Feast For The Fight fundraiser. You’ll find me at one of them.

This event goes right alongside the latest book I’ve been reading, Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz. First off, one of the guiding principles of Mission Street Food, as set by Myint and Leibowitz, was to build a restaurant business model with a charitable component. On page 63 of their book, you’ll find them discussing the “Benevolent Business” and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. At the end of the day they seem to conclude that it doesn’t matter to them and continued to give money away with the opening of their next three restaurants. If all it takes to be charitable these days is to eat, then count me in. I do it (eat) at least three times a day so why shouldn’t someone benefit from my gluttony.


For a similar reason to why I loved David Chang’s magazine, Lucky Peach, Mission Street Food reads like an artful stream of consciousness, documenting their business wins and woes in a unique and intriguingly arranged cookbook of sorts that’s actually part memories, part cookbook, part kitchen confidential and lots of fun. I suppose, I could learn to be philanthropic, like the theme of tonight’s Feast For The Fight dining event, but this is one book that I will not share with others. Get your own copy.

Fall Notes on Reading, Writing and Ramen

September 11th, 2011 by Dawn Becker

September is always a busy time for me with the start of conference season and the boys back to school. While most other parents are ecstatic about the return of school, I find the regimen of the school hours, making lunches and homework duties a hard adjustment for all of us. Add to this that Cole’s birthday is on September 5th and the guilt I have in knowing I can never pull it together to organize a birthday party with his friends until October can be overwhelming. The cobbler’s kids have no shoes and the event planner’s kid has belated birthday parties.

Along with having a busy schedule, my writing outlet also suffers and I’ve been finding it harder and harder to take precious moments to post here. Having read a number of blogs, it seems that most non-professional bloggers have ebbs and flows in their writing as I’m experiencing and this is normal. I still enjoy writing even though my posts are more intermittent as this is a valuable outlet.

Trust me also that my food experiences have not been reduced. In fact, we just got back from a road trip to Cleveland, Ohio, where our sole purpose was to dine at Iron Chef Michael Symon’s restaurant, Lola Bistro. We did tack on a couple of fun days at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, which got me in the good books with the kids. And they were looking forward to our dinner at Lola Bistro as much as I was. The service at Lola Bistro was sincere and friendly. We all walked away feeling like we were kings. We ordered nearly every appetizer on the menu and split two entrees between the three of us. I would describe the food but I wonder if I can do it any justice to write about perfection. Let me just say that Cleveland is worth a visit, if only just to eat at Lola Bistro or anyone of Chef Symon’s other restaurants in the area. Plus it’s a 5 hour drive from Toronto, closer than Montreal.

Ah Montreal, another destination I enjoyed with Casey this summer. We booked last minute reservations at Chef Martin Picard’s restaurant, Au Pied de Cochon (or PDC as the insiders tell me) and got an 11PM seating. Their last of the night. Hopped into the car and drove like madness. It was a sumptuous meal and we left bloated and giddy. This is another place I would happily drive to for dinner. And I must mention that the special we had of veal bone marrow topped with sevruga caviar was mind blowing.

Today I did enjoy a few minutes of down time which I used to get into the articles in a new magazine, Lucky Peach, brain child of David Chang, chef of the famous Momofuku restaurants in New York, with two exciting new locations planned for Toronto in 2012.


This inaugural issues focuses on ramen, one of my favourite food subjects, and sadly it just rubs it in how little physical research one can do in Toronto with the severe lack of ramen restaurants that truly honour this dish. I won’t even go into how mediocre the ramen places are here having broken my ramen cherry in Tokyo so many years ago. It’s like your first taste of meat was kobe steak and then only being able to get top sirloin after that. No comparison.

Back to the topic at hand, Lucky Peach. I recommend this magazine as a must read for anyone who loves to delve into a topic. Not simple visual porn, this is more like erotica for foodies. Lucky Peach feels like an art house magazine that will surely be a keeper. Make room on your shelf because you’ll want to save this one to read again and again, or just to say you have if you’re more about collecting trophies than actually digesting the articles.

More For The Bookshelf or Holiday Gift Giving Ideas Part Two

December 15th, 2010 by Dawn Becker

Cooking DirtyA quick add-on to my previous post on holiday gift books, I just finished reading Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan. In a similar tell-all-tales-from-the-kitchen vein of Anthony Bourdain’s earlier book Kitchen Confidential  and Marco Pierre White’s The Devil In the Kitchen, Jason Sheehan doesn’t fail to shock and awe. Be warned, there is some colourful text. You quickly realize it’s just vocabulary as opposed to punctuation and so the f-bombs easily blend in and what you’re left with is a raw, honest and strangely tender account of Sheehan’s life in the kitchen. It’s a tough world out there and Sheehan really transports you into the boiling, sweaty, thrilling mess of the average restaurant kitchen. I recommend this book for readers who enjoy a truly gritty, graphic tale of personal discovery where the kitchen is the playground.


Katherine Darling’s Under The Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School, has also recently held its post by my bedside. Memoirs are written with such a personal voice and an author can pull you in and make you feel a part of their private club as they share their most intimate memories and honest reflections. But sometimes someone’s voice grates you the wrong way and Katherine Darling does that to me. Under The Table is an entertaining account of life in culinary school but I think for me there’s an undertone of privilege or pretention that I can’t shake. Still I think the book is worthy of checking out and just because I seem to have a personality conflict with her written word doesn’t mean you will.

Wife of the chefReleased a few years back but one that I’ve only recently had a chance to read is Wife of the Chef by Courtney Febbroriello. An interesting account of another side of restaurant life, being co-owner and wife of the Chef is not a bed of roses as you might imagine. Single ladies, when you find yourself ogling the hot young Chef at the bar after the kitchen closes for the night, you might want to read this book first. Wife of the Chef leaves you a little breathless. When recounting her day to day work schedule, Febbroriello’s quick-paced staccato rhythm makes you genuinely feel the rush of her daily life… and the chaos. This is a revealing behind-the-scenes book peppered with real world frustration and a good dose of the passion and thankless commitment it takes to survive in the restaurant business.

On My Bookshelf or Holiday Gift Giving Ideas Part One

November 20th, 2010 by Dawn Becker

With the holiday gift-giving season around the corner, I thought I’d share what’s on my bookshelf. While I’m not a voracious reader like my sister, Belle, a.k.a, I do find myself eating up cookbooks and food-related memoirs at a fairly steady pace. I think it’s my way of becoming sated… without the calories.


A week ago, Belle and I met Nigella Lawson at the Fairmont Royal York for cocktails and dinner using dishes created from her new cookbook, Kitchen: Recipes From The Heart Of The Home.

Admittedly Belle is the sincere Nigella fan while I went more curious to see if she was in real life the luscious persona you see on TV. I was delighted to find her charming, genuine and very relatable – in between book signings she had to pause to discreetly blow her nose. And though she had a cold it didn’t deter her from engaging with everyone along the way.

Celebrity chefs are loved because of their personalities and not just for their cooking techniques. Having met Nigella in person, I am now a convert and more of her books will find a way on to my shelf, starting with Kitchen. This book is not just a collection of recipes as her voice comes through the whole book from the stories, anecdotes and tips that go with each recipe. You don’t have to be a cook to enjoy reading this and drooling over the beautiful food shots.

Pictured are the two entrees, prepared by the Fairmont Royal York kitchen. Above is the Redcurrant and Mint Lamb Cutlets, Red Leicester Mash, Seasonal Vegetables (lamb recipe found on page 67). To the left is Halloumi with Beetroot and Lime served with Cherry Tomato Couscous (halloumi recipe found on page 212-213).

I am fond of snout-to-tail cooking and I love the idea of using all parts, wasting as little as possible. Culturally speaking, the Chinese are huge proponents of this, making all sorts of unusual bits, innards and appendages taste shockingly delicious. This leads me naturally to being a fan of Anthony Bourdain and Michael Symon, both known for a no holds barred approach to food and live to cookalso for being a sort of kitchen bad boy (a personal weakness). Chris Cosentino fits the bill too but I haven’t seen a book come out from him yet. Hopefully it’s in the works.

If your holiday gift shopping list includes someone with similar interests, you might want to pick up Michael Symon’s Live To Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen.

I love the “Symon Says” wisdom boxes that appear on random pages of this cookbook, like on page 99 where he states “Don’t throw pig skin away!” At his restaurant they end up as cracklings to garnish salads. I have a whole sheet of smoked pork rind in my fridge right now that I got from my butcher for FREE. There’s not much of a consumer market for it so it seems I’m the lucky duck. I’ll be sure to use Michael’s book to guide me with ideas on what to do with it today.

Medium Raw

Having been a committed Bourdain-ian for years, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his recently released book, Medium Raw. Aptly named, the cantankerous adventure seeking eater-of-all-things-remotely-edible, whom we have faithfully followed all these years, the chef-turned-TV-celeb cynic we know and love as Anthony Bourdian, has officially gone soft. Well, not fully soft just maybe a little limp. And that’s the point. While he doesn’t exactly wear rose-coloured glasses, this book is not the raw and gritty Bourdain we couldn’t wait to read in his earlier books like Kitchen Confidential. This is a more grown-up version of Anthony Bourdain. Fear not, because he is still wonderfully opinionated yet strangely sincere. This book is not an apology for past digressions but rather a well-timed continuation demonstrating what inevitably happens to people in life. Age. And hopefully what comes with it. A little well earned wisdom.Born Round

My absolute favourite book this year has to be Born Round by Frank Bruni, acclaimed journalist and former restaurant critic for The New York Times. This is a very intimate, revealing book about a man living with his weight challenges. This book is uplifting and inspiring without trying to be. It isn’t really a food book and yet it is at the same time.

If you’ve ever struggled with your weight or body image or self-confidence due to either, then this book will really relate. I’ve struggled with my own dichotomous thoughts on fat versus thin and this book reminded me that I wasn’t alone. Frank Bruni’s ability to pull you in right from the start and engage the reader is a genuine gift. Born Round is a page turner and I couldn’t wait to see how he handled his weight issues under the pressure of eating out two meals a day, seven days a week, during his years as a restaurant food critic. It’s no easy task, made more difficult by someone who truly enjoys eating on a visceral level. I think there are a few of us out there who might understand that type of passion for eating.

Bits And Bites: April 2010

April 19th, 2010 by Dawn Becker

Creating a new heading under Bits And Bites, this post consists of a short summary of things I’ve been doing, perusing and pondering.

Blogging About Food In Toronto

I recently started doing some restaurant reviews for blogTO — three to date on Chick-N-Joy, Linda by Salad King and just this week, Family Dumpling House. Writing for someone else is not as easy as writing for yourself. I’ve learned quite a few things already from the blogTO editor and also from the readers’ remarks, both positive and negative. It’s an opportunity to learn more about what flies and what doesn’t and I’m open to seeing how this turns out.

A few hiccups along the way have already occurred with things happening out of my control, say a by-line on an announcement that I didn’t write, and one unhappy restaurant owner, which for the most part is par for the course. And if I am willing to critique a restaurant I must in turn be willing to expose myself to the swath of comments and criticisms about what I say. I believe that a thicker skin will be needed with everyone being free and entitled to make a remark or better yet, a compliment. That is part of putting yourself out there publicly. Not everyone has to like my work… but of course, it would be nice.

In the end, I hope writing for blogTO will have the added benefit of exposing BananaViews to more readers. As much fun as it is having the opportunity to express myself here, it’s even better knowing that you’re out there. And thanks for that.

Jealous of Judith JonesJudith Jones, The Tenth Muse

I just read The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones and I’ve been thinking about what a great life she’s had working with some of the most critically-acclaimed chefs and cookbook writers around, most famously Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Marion Cunningham and Lidia Bastianich to name a few. It’s written so sincerely and she tells about her encounters managing each of these “greats” so graciously. Each page flows and you can easily devour this book in an instant.

Even better, she also devotes the last quarter of her book to recipes including a section called Cooking For One which looks like a prelude to her recent book The Pleasures Of Cooking For One. I am looking forward to reading The Pleasures Of Cooking For One but have delayed it out of sentimental reasons. The idea of one day cooking for one compared to my busy household now sort of breaks my heart. Yet surely the intention of her book is to contrast just that and is exactly the reason why I should read it.

Martin Turns Thirty

My friends throw fabMartin Ryan 30th 2ulous parties and Saturday we celebrated Martin’s 30th birthday party which included a mash of Martin’s social circles. Martin (pictured left) decided to have a private party at PM Gallery owned by Powell MacDougall and the wife of our friend, Geoffrey who helped to host the night with Powell catering in the kitchen. Codorniu Pinot Noir Rose Brut Cava

Powell’s cooking is a side benefit if you’re lucky enough to host a reception in her gallery, surrounded by interesting (and very buyable) art. Martin loves his wine and knows quite a thing or two about it and in combination with Powell’s treats this was a tasty night. He served us a refreshing bubbly, Codorniu Pinot Noir Rose Brut Cava, which was bright and light on the palate with nice berry notes. He also served a smash hit rioja that I can’t remember the name of, likely due to having too many of them. Must ask Martin to send me the wine list.

Rowena and Marcus brought Baby Lennon so we could meet him in person. I posted about the big Philippine-style baby shower a while back and here he is.Baby LennonOverall, a fantastic night of frivolity. So as a reminder of the revelry, here are some shots of the party. Note that I didn’t bring my DSLR which would have produced crisper photos but that’s how things go when you’re decked out in heels with a small purse. Happy Birthday Martin!

Martin Ryan 30th 7 Martin Ryan 30th 8 Martin Ryan 30th 9Martin Ryan 30th 15

Chinese Traditional Bun

February 23rd, 2010 by Dawn Becker

If you think having hand-pulled Chinese noodles is a luxury you can only get in China, think again. Chinese Traditional Bun has been a haven in Toronto’s downtown Chinatown for mouth-watering northern Chinese dishes for years including tender hand-pulled noodles. It’s located just west of Spadina Avenue on the north side of Dundas Avenue West.Chinese Traditional Bun on Dundas

In Chinese fashion, using whatever space is available, the noodle-maker’s workstation is wedged in at the front door. A delight for me, an auspicious view of his handiwork while being respectfully unobtrusive. Just the way I like it.hand made noodles at Chinese Traditional Bun2It seemed the noodles were made custom for our order of dan dan noodles (dandanmian in Mandarin) as they went straight to the steamy kitchen and minutes later we were served. Dan dan noodles were a regular Sichuan street snack back in the days when vendors were able to sell their wares in the streets of China, before the Cultural Revolution hit.

dan dan mein bowl

   dan dan mein serving

So popular, author Fuschia Dunlop, even devotes Chapter Two in Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper to dan dan noodles, which includes a scrumptiously spicy recipe for them. This engaging book is a memoir of Dunlop’s experience in China when she was a student in the 90’s. It’s a wonderfully intimate read that’s a taste exploration of a truly complex country, both in food and politics. If you have any interest in Chinese cuisine or history, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper really should be on your list of must-read books.

Shark's Fin and Sichuan PepperAnother staple of Chinese fare are dumplings and they do them so well at Chinese Traditional Bun, hand-rolling their own wrappers. Jiao zi are what you might know as pot stickers, mixed ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped in a flour-based dough, either boiled or pan-fried. It’s similar to the Japanese gyoza, though the jiao zi wrapper is not nearly as delicate. We had the boiled pork and cabbage dumpling, lightly dipped in our own preferred combinations of hot chilli oil, soy sauce and/or a dash of vinegar.

pork and cabbage dumplingXialongbao or soup dumplings are a popular steamer version that are usually stuffed with meat and a gelatinized cube of stock that melts inside the dumpling when cooked, filling these tasty pockets with soup. The ones at Chinese Traditional Buns are very juicy so be careful of spraying hot soup on your date.


A few of our other selections include this spring onion pancake that must have been made with gentle hands. It turns out to be very light and flaky, again dipped in a chilli oil and soy sauce combo. It’s hard not to eat two in one sitting.spring onion pancakeAlso popular as a starter are cold slices of five-spiced braised beef shank.

spicy five-spiced braised beef shankAnd for a soupy course, there’s the mutton noodle stew, a non-spicy dish for a change that includes sheet-like noodles soaking up the delicate flavours.Mutton Noodle Soup StewA can’t miss dish is the house special crispy chicken that no one can wait to dig into. This combination of salty and crunchy is seriously bone-sucking fantastic.

house special crispy chicken 2

Braised pork belly served with bok choy is also good but considering this is a non-licensed venue, this dish would go down so much better with a cold beer to cut the fatty edge, but it doesn’t stop me.

braised pork belly

What they do provide is a warm cup of self-serve soy bean milk at no charge, when available. soy milk dispenserChinese Traditional Bun has been serving memorable meals for years at prices that make you wonder how they keep their doors open. They deserve a reminder and hopefully this means you’ll be hearing the smack, thwack and whack of hand-pulled noodles in your future soon.

Red Cliffs In My Room

January 29th, 2010 by Dawn Becker

This morning the sun shone brightly into my bedroom lighting up the walls with a golden yellow hue. It was a spectacular way to wake up with the warmth of the sun hitting the bed while I lay safely tucked under my fluffy duvet during this latest cold snap in Toronto. The colours were so magnificent that it was almost a pleasure to get out of bed – well, not really but it helped. It actually reminded me of the first battle scene in the film, Red Cliff.

If you haven’t seen Red Cliff yet you should put this one on your list of must-see films. Red Cliff is an epic movie directed by famed Hong Kong action director, John Woo and stars many Asian superstars such as Tony Leung (Lust Caution, Infernal Affairs, Hero, Hard Boiled, and too many other great roles to name), Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers), Shido Nakamura (Letters from Iwo Jima), and Chen Chang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to name a few.

Red CliffRed Cliff is a period piece that recounts an important battle in Chinese history, the Battle of Chibi (Battle of Red Cliffs), that marked the end of the Han Dynasty. The movie is a true masterpiece of strategy and poetic battle movements shot over the beautiful scenic backdrop of the Red Cliffs. The original movie was so long that they ended up producing it in two parts. Both Red Cliff and Red Cliff II have a running time of well over two hours each so you really get your money’s worth from these movies that don’t let up at all in their pacing. The action sequences are very fresh and exciting and there’s a good dose of humour added to keep it light. It also helps that the actors are talented and easy on the eyes, so the time really flies by.

The characters seem to have been provided with stereotypically inherent Chinese personas such as the profound and thoughtful Chief Strategist Zhuge Liang, played by Kaneshiro, the against-all-odds determination and conviction of Zhou Yu, played by Leung, and the pained angst of the young lord, Sun Quan, who is plagued by unremarkable inaction compared to the warriors in his family history. Sun Quan is played by Chen Chang and is a real role reversal from Dark Cloud, the intense dessert warrior that woos the Zhang Ziyi character, Jen, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Red Cliff 2

There is a pivotal scene in Red Cliff II involving delicious glutinous rice balls or tangyuan where the generals share their precious few rice balls with their battle leader, Zhou Yu, signifying their loyalty and belief in him. It’s a moving way to show fealty at the precipice of war, all done through food.

You can make your own glutinous rice balls but the ones you can buy frozen in most Asian supermarket are very tasty without the sticky effort.

glutinous rice ball package

I like the Amoy brand, shown above with peanut filling, but they are also available with sesame paste, red-bean paste or without any filling. To cook them, just boil a pot of water, drop the rice balls in and let them boil until they float. They are ready when half of the rice ball rises above the water. If the rice ball is not floating half way above the water the filling may not be completely ready.

glutinous rice balls 2Now you too can create an opportunity for your family to demonstrate their allegiance and adoration for you. Just make sure you boil enough of these goodies to make it easy for them share.

Savouring Saveur

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 earlieSaveur shelfr. 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.

Porchetta Rolled 3The 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.

Porchetta c.u

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.

Porchetta Cooked better

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. Porchetta Slicing

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.