Sunday, January 2, 2011

Porchetta

A more recent experience with porchetta is here.

This was an experience to say the least. We invited friends over to celebrate New Year's Day with a porchetta feast that I got from a Food Network show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Anne Burrell's show that I like to keep track of. We included the chickpea soup that was on the show as well. 

A detailed recipe for each are online at the Food Network site. 

As is my wont with new recipes, I kept to the letter on each one. I like Anne's shows in spite of her fairly annoying (to me) style as she is pretty good at describing the various steps to each dish but, as is true with Lidia's shows, you need to triangulate between the show and the printed recipe. Unlike Lidia, though, you don't have to buy a book to get the printed recipe as they are all on the Food Network site. In this case, however, there was a glaring omission both on the show and in the recipe as to the size of the pork she used even though made a point of cooking it for four hours. 

In our case we got a 10 pound pork shoulder with the skin intact from the Marketplace in Rockridge Oakland at Marin Sun Farms' outlet there. They told us the pork was a heritage Berkshire mix from a ranch in Sonoma county. The butcher boned and butterflied the shoulder for us.

In case you're unaware, most pork grown and sold in this country these days, are from breeds that have been developed to eliminate a lot of the fat inherent in pigs. I think this was a reaction to the fear of fat fetish we went through in the 90's but seems kind of ridiculous now in hindsight. I mean pigs are supposed to have fat, aren't they? Isn't that the whole point of eating pork? In addition to the new breeds, pork, like mass-produced beef and chicken in the US, is often raised in horrid conditions with antibiotics used as a preventive measure to counteract the effects of those conditions. The heritage breeds grown in smaller farms pretty much bypass all of this and produce amazing meat. Meat like I remember from when I was young in the 50's. Even though they tend to be considerably more expensive, I find it worth paying the extra cash for a superior product.

Even though not indicated in Anne's porchetta recipe, we marinated the pork overnight in the frig with the garlic herb paste. In the morning of the dinner, I started preparing the vegetable bed when our power went out.  Here are the photos prior to cooking.



We suspected that the power would be out for a while so I immediately fired up the Big Green Egg to get the pork into the heat with enough time to hit our mark on the start of dinner. A good thing I did too as the power wound up being out for 3 hours which would have a put a real crimp into plans.
The recipe calls for 4 hours at 450° but comments on the web site recommended kicking that down to 350° for the last hour. 

The BGE added a nice smoky flavor overall so it turned out to be a bit of luck as with the cold and the light rain that fell most of the day, I would not have used it if I wasn't forced to. We cooked the pork for the first 3 hours in the BGE and moved it to the inside electric oven at 350° to finish. The interior temperature reached about 165-170° at about 4½ hours so not far off from the recipe.


The pork was absolutely delicious but the veggies, save for the potatoes, not so much. Anne made a real point of keeping the veggies in liquid to avoid scorching from the high heat used to cook the pork but still they kind of became drowned in heavy fat from the pork.

This looks like the kind of dish I'm going to have to try a few times to get handle on as it's kind of like driving a semi the first time, what with the size of the meat and the high heat. It might turn out best with the veggies being cut into larger pieces to withstand the heat.