Jan 20, 2014

Food Experiment #6: Porchetta (aka Roast Pork Belly)

Zedy and I saw images of Porchetta (like the one below), and we couldn’t get it out of our heads or bellies, for the matter.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - from Iamafoodblog
Source: Iamafoodblog

As true foodies, we thought: “Let’s make one Porchetta and eat one Porchetta.” Off we went searching for recipes and decided on this really nice step-by-step recipe from Kenji of Serious Eats.

It turned out pretty OK. And we finished it all… At least I think my dinner guests weren’t humouring me.

You’ll Need These Ingredients:

  • 2 kg of pork belly (remove the hairs on the skin and wash the entire belly in salt water)

For the Marinade

  • 3 tablespoon of peppercorns (it don’t matter if they’re white or black) 
  • 5 tablespoon of fennel seeds  
  • 7 chillies
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 handful of thyme
  • Lots of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

Instructions and “Did it Work?”

1. Make the Marinade

Toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds. Once it turns brown and smells toasty, chuck the lot into a blender (or mortar and pestle) and grind them up into powder.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - peppercorns & fennel seeds

Mince up garlic, chilli and thyme.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Garlic and chilli Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Thyme

Put the minced garlic, chilli, thyme and peppercorn-fennel seed powder on separate plates.

2. Preparing the Roast

Put the pork belly skin-side up.

Stab into it with a sharp knife or scissors. This helps to make the skin crispy – at least that’s what my dad says and that’s what the roast meats guy says too. It’s not easy and it feels like I’m stabbing into rubber.

Once done, flip the belly so it’s meat-side up.

Now slice into the  meat in diagonal lines, rotate it, then slice it again in diagonal lines so that you get diamond-shaped cuts on the meat. Try as much as possible to cut into the meat until it reaches the fat. 

Now the meat’s prepped.

3. Marinade the Roast

All the chilli, garlic, thyme and peppercorn-fennel mix that was ground up earlier now comes in play. Don’t go lightly on the seasoning, I find that heavily-seasoned meats tend to get better taste results.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After marinating with garlic, chilli, peppercorn-fennel seeds, Thyme (close up)

Keeping the pork belly meat-side up, we scatter and rub the spices into the meat and the grooves in this order:

  1. Lots of salt
  2. Garlic
  3. Chilli
  4. Peppercorn-fennel mix
  5. Thyme

The end result looks like a run-over chia pet.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After marinating with garlic, chilli, peppercorn-fennel seeds, Thyme

Once happy with chia-ing the meat, roll up the pork belly.

I tie up the belly in the middle, then tie up the sides at regular intervals. I like to keep rolls contained within itself, but slicing the meat means that some of the pork loin will spill out on the ends. To rectify it, I tied up the meat lengthwise too.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Front view

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - Tied Lengthwise

Final step before the refrigeration, mix 2 tablespoons of salt with the baking soda and rub it liberally onto the pork roll. Wrap the roll with clingwrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.

4. Roast it! 

Take out the rolled pork belly. Leave it on the table for 1 hour to let it come to room temperature first.

I chucked it into the oven for 160C at 3 hours to slow cook the insides. Watching it spin around and around in the oven is mesmerising. At this point in time, the pork belly looks and feels hard but spongy to touch.

Once the bell goes “DING!”, crank up the heat to 250C for 30 min to cackle the skin and give it a brown all-over colour.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After Roasting, Top View

After roasting, take it out and sit it for 10 min under an aluminium foil tent.

Once 10 min has gone by, start carving the roast into thick, stuff-your-face-in slices. The trick here isn’t to cut from the top (aka the skin) as it’ll break off into shards of cackling. What I did was to flip it so that it faces meat-side up and cleave it into slices.

This keeps the skin intact like the picture below.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Belly) - After cutting

Verdict

I’m glad that I experimented with the Roast Pork Belly on a smaller scale before this big-ass roll. I shouldn’t have removed the strings before the final roast cackling. That’s why this Porchetta looks flatter than the usual rolled up version.

Otherwise, succcess!



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