This is premier man food that any sensible meat eating woman would love too. I am not exaggerating. The Italian flavor profile of rosemary, sage, thyme and fennel is seductive enough to destroy any low fat diet, and paired with slow roasted pork and it’s last meal good. Take it a step further into food heaven land by adding braised fennel and other hearty vegetables. I love fresh fennel and I only can love it more when it has been cooked with a pork shoulder that becomes a mock porchetta.
Before we talk food, let’s pronounce porchetta correctly. It sounds like porketta. In Italian, the ch sounds like a k and the c sound like ch as in church. Think Chianti and cello and you will always know the correct Italian pronounciation of the letter c. By the way, this same rule applies to bruschetta, which is often mispronounced.
Porchetta is an Italian tradition of roasting the body of the pig, deboned and stuffed with sultry herbs, fennel pollen, garlic, and lemon. It’s often sold as street food in Italy and now it’s sold as street food in America.
I had my first porchetta sandwich from a food truck in San Francisco and it is one of the most memorable bites of my life. I’m not sure how perfectly authentic it was, but it was as close to the real Porchetta that I’d ever had. Herb Stuffed boneless pork wrapped in pork belly, sliced thinly, chopped up, and placed on a square ciabatta roll with arugula had me and bunch of other foodies drooling and yes, overeating a bit. It’s the Italian equivalent of the much beloved pulled pork sandwich, but, for me, much better.
When I saw this recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, by chef and co-owner, Judy Rogers, I knew it was the first recipe I was going to try in the amazing cookbook. I’ve eaten at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco several times, and I loved the food so much I had to have their cookbook. I have also made chocolate pots de cream from the book several times and it’s that perfect just enough chocolate which would go well with this entree.
There is another recipe is the book the signature dish of the Zuni Cafe, which is their roast chicken with a bread salad, served for two. It takes one hour after the order is placed and is worth it. I’ve made this many times, even once at Thanksgiving. The cookbook lays out the instructions well, and so far, I have not been disappointed by any recipes. The Zuni Cafe has been around since 1979 and the cookbook since 2002. It’s one of those books that belongs in every kitchen, if you like regional Italian and French cooking, prepared with a California flair, keeping the dishes simple, flavorful, memorable.
The Mock Porchetta with Root Vegetables
This is dinner party or big party food. A pork butt is an affordable cut of meat, and will go a long way. The first time I made this was for sandwiches at a party. My local grocery store sells very small rolls called silver dollar rolls which make for easy one bite sandwiches, but I still like the ciabatta square rolls the best. They need to be very fresh or toasted and then they can be cut in fours for party bites.
Do add in as many root vegetables as you can fit in your pan. I found myself eating them from the pan and having a hard time stopping. I never knew rutabagas could taste so good. Do serve with with an arugula salad (to follow) which helps to cut through the richness. If you serve as porchetta sandwiches, slice and chop and top with arugula. It’s so right together.
The instructions call for making several cuts into the muscle to stuff the herbs. Don’t worry too much if it looks a mess. It’s going to be delicious. Do give this at least one day to marinate in the refrigerator.
- 1 three-pound bonless pork shoulder butt pork roast
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoons capers, rinsed, pressed dry and barely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 12 fresh sage leaves, crushed, coarsely chopped ( 1½ teaspoons dried)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, taken off stem
- 1 tablespoons fennel seeds, barely crushed, divided 2 teaspoons, 1 teaspoon
- 1½ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 to 2 pounds prepared root vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabagas, fennel bulb)
- olive oil
- ⅔ cup pork stock or chicken stock or water
- 3 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
- Trim all but ¼" layer of fat. Make slits in the pork where the fat lays next to the w muscle. This will be for the stuffing. Make several slits, careful not to cut the pork in half.You will want to have a lot of internal surfaces to place the herb mixture.
- Combine zest, capers, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, herbs, pepper together and stuff the pork inside all of the cut slits.
- Tie the pork up with string. Rub remaining fennel seeds on the outside of the pork. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Marinate overnight.
- Take out of refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to roasting.
- Preheat oven to 350. Roast for approximately 2½ hours
- Toss vegetables in very small amount of olive oil. Season with salt.
- Roast pork with vegetables. If roast has not turned brown within the first 45 minutes, turn oven up to 375. After one hour of cooking, turn roast and vegetables.
- Cook until internal temperature is at 160 degrees. Allow to rest 20 minutes outside of oven, while making the pan sauce. Pork will continue to cook.
- The pork should look as golden and crispy as this picture.
- As the herbs fall into the liquid, reapply to the exterior of the roast.
- In making the pan sauce, remove the pork and vegetables, spoon off the fat, add in vermouth and stock or water and cook over low heat. Deglaze the pan. Skim more fat off if necessary. Pour sauce over slices of pork.
- Serve either as entree or with as sandwiches on ciabatta bread with arugula.
- Note: Watch the vegetables. They may be getting done before the pork is done, but you do want them to be very caramelized.