8lb Pork Belly (This is the centerpiece of your dish. It should be an entire rectangle belly. You can get it at Costco for a few dollars per pound. I guarantee it is worth it to spend a little more and go to a butcher you trust. If you can find a belly from a heritage breed pig or at least from a local farm, get it. It can run you eight to ten dollars a pound but it will be worth it in the end.)
2 tsp Fennel seed
2 tsp Black peppercorn
1 tsp Coriander seed
1 tsp Red chili flakes
1 fennel bulb, stocks and fronds removed and sliced into ⅛ inch slices (Keep the fennel fronds to garnish the potatoes)
9 cloves garlic
2 tbsp Rosemary, picked and finely chopped
Zest and juice from orange (I like using a blood orange here. There are some jammy notes that a blood orange has that work well with the dish)
1 ½ lb yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch slices
Notes before you begin
This dish will take a lot of forethought and planning. It’s tough to just wing a porchetta. Make sure you are doing all of the prep the night before. It will cook for a while so why not plan a gathering around it? Make a day of hanging out with some friends, family, and 8lbs of sizzling pork belly.
The Night Before
Lay the porchetta meat side down. Using the sharpest knife you have, gently score the skin in an X crosshatch pattern, about 1 inch apart. This will help later when you get this skin super crispy. Be gentle with the knife. You are not trying to cut through the skin, just make a very shallow incision.
Lay out the porchetta, skin side down. Using that insanely sharp knife, score the meat down about ¼ of an inch in an X crosshatch pattern. This crosshatch should be closer than that on the skin. Be careful you do not go so far as to pierce the skin. You are doing this so that you can thoroughly rub all the spices into the meat.
You will be making three mixtures — One dry, one semi-dry, and one wet. Get three bowls and your senses ready for a wild ride of smells.
We will start with the dry bowl. Pour the fennel seed, coriander seed, chili flakes, and peppercorns into a dry pan over medium-high heat. By toasting the spices, you increase the intensity and depth of whatever flavors you are working with. It’s a good trick whenever you’re using hard, whole spices. Stir the mix around every 15 seconds. You do not want them to burn and get bitter. After seven to ten minutes, the coriander and fennel seeds will darken and the whole mixture will get intensely fragrant. Pour this mixture into an electric spice grinder and grind them into a rough powder. Pulse the grinder until you get the right consistency. If you do not have an electric spice grinder, use a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, take a smaller pan and crush the spices using the flat side. Mix in 1 ½ tablespoons of kosher salt and set aside.
Next, the semi-dry bowl. Using a microplane, mince the garlic into a paste. Rub each clove across the microplane and it will turn into delicious mush. Remove the rosemary from the stem and finely mince it, zest you orange into the same bowl, mix these together and there you have it! Your semi-dry bowl
In the wet bowl, mix the amaro and blood orange juice. That one is easy.
Now we are ready to assemble! We start by covering the scored pork belly in the wet mixture. This is creating something for the other mixtures to stick to. Evenly cover the belly in the liquid and rub it into the incisions. Next, sprinkle the dry mixture over the belly. Rub it in, also ensuring it gets as deep as possible and that every part of the meat is covered. Finally, take the semi-dry mixture and thoroughly rub that into the pork. At each of these steps take your time. You want to make sure that every piece of the belly is covered with the spices.
Time to salt the belly. Sprinkle a hefty amount of kosher salt over the porchetta. It’s incredibly fatty so it can take a fair bit of salt.
Finally, you are going to put the fennel slices down the center of the belly in a straight line and roll it up as tightly as possible. Using butcher’s twine, truss (tie up) the roll of meat, making rings that are about ¾ inch apart and ensuring the ends are also bound.
Tightly wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. This is going to give all of those complex flavors and spices time to deeply season the meat. Now, open some wine, have a cookie. Celebrate, you did it! You prepped a porchetta!
The day of!
Three hours before you intend to cook the porchetta, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature, still wrapped up. This is to bring it up from the temperature it has been sitting in all night. You will cook the porchetta for about four hours and let it rest for twenty minutes, so take that into consideration.
After two and a half hours of resting at room temperature, turn the oven on to 300F.
After three hours of sitting out, unwrap the porchetta and put it in the oven in a roasting pan on a rack. If you don’t have one, no worries. Put it in a large aluminum pan on a resting rack (these are only about ten dollars). You don’t want the porchetta to be sitting on the bottom of the pan for two reasons. Firstly, you want the heat to be able to circulate around the entire thing. Secondly, a ton of fat is going to drip out over the cooking process (and will be what we cook the potatoes in) and we don’t want the pork soaking in it.
While the pork is cooking, cut the potatoes. Soak them in cold water for an hour to pull out some of the starch. After an hour, strain them out and dry them off.
Now you have some time (about three hours to be exact). There are so many dishes that can go with a porchetta. Make a pesto, maybe some fresh ricotta, make a salad, learn a magic trick. You have some time.
After two and a half hours cooking, take the porchetta out of the oven. Pause and admire your work. Nice job, you. You’re doing a great job. Using tongs and a spatula, move the porchetta to a baking sheet. Pour the potatoes into the roasting pan and toss them with some kosher salt and black pepper. Turn them over in the pan to coat them in the porchetta drippings. After this, place the porchetta back in the rack on top of the potatoes. They will cook for the last hour and a half under that damn good pork belly. Throw the whole thing back in the oven.
Cook it for another hour and ten minutes. After the porchetta has been in the oven for three hours and 40 minutes, turn the oven up to 450 (I know, it’s hot). Cook it for 20 minutes at this heat to dry out the skin and get it super crispy. After 20 minutes, take the roasting pan out of the oven. Move the porchetta back to the baking sheet and let it rest for 20 minutes.
In this time, toss the potatoes and scoop them into a bowl. Garnish with some fennel fronds and Maldon salt.
Get a cutting board, all of your sides, and place them on whatever table you are serving on. After 20 minutes, cut slices of the porchetta with a serrated knife. You’ll need it to go through the crispy skin. Cut a bunch of slices and let people build their own sandwiches.
For me, an ideal porchetta sandwich is a slice with a little extra skin, some pesto, and a little balsamic vinegar. I assure you it will be a life changing bite of food. But this is your porchetta. You made this. Serve it however you like. Just remember to do it with and for friends. Have a drink. Enjoy!