Porchetta is a somewhat wonderful beast from the village communities in Italy. A superb family meal, it is often made from the entire belly of pork, boned, and roasted wrapped in foil, stuffed with herbs for hours in a wood oven.
The trouble is, all the fabulous fat that gives the roast so much flavour is a bit off-putting for some people who appears to be stuck on “can I have something lean?” The compromise is to roast a loin of pork with enough fat to satisfy the chef but lean enough inside to mollify those who are determined to ruin a good idea.
Having said all that, this is rather delicious.
First and foremost, take your loin and put it meat side down. It should have a layer of fat of around 1 cm thick or so. You may need to go to your butcher for this or the instore butcher in the supermarket as I notice the prepacked versions often have much of the fat cut away. Score the fat with a very sharp knife to create a diamond pattern of about 1.5cm sized diamonds.
Turn the loin the other way up and make two cuts down the length of the meat almost all the way through, but not quite. Salt this side.
On your chopping board chop up the shallots, the garlic, some sage and thyme, green peppercorns and any other herbs you want in there – rosemary is nice. Chop them together till they are fine but not minced! You may need extra depending on the size of your loin.
Spread them over the meat side of the pork, making sure plenty goes into the long cuts. Sprinkle the inside with olive oil and then roll the entire thing up and tie tightly with string.
Tying up a joint can be fiddly. I find that it helps to do three strings (end-middle-other end) first, probably not as tight as I want it, but at least holding it together. Then you can tie more strings, much tighter till the entire roast is nice and solid – it should never be loose feeling!
Turn the pork back over and rub salt and a little oil into the fat.
Roast in a medium hot oven covered with foil or in a baster with a lid. If in foil, make a nice dome over the meat so it has a bit of elbow room in there. Depending on the size it takes about an hour. For the last 10 minutes, remove the foil and make sure the fat is nicely golden.
If you want to give the pork a nice glaze, brush on some thin, warmed honey on the fat after you remove the foil for those last 10 minutes.
Check it with a meat thermometer. It should be at about 60-65 degrees celsius straight out of the oven. It will raise to 70 or so after standing.
Let it rest for a good ten to fifteen minutes in a warm place, covered with foil.
And that is all there is to it. Serve it traditionally with roast spuds and veg, though I like to serve it with a pea risotto with lots of parsley.