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Tuscan Doorway in Castellina in Chianti, Italy
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La Belle Cuisine
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
by Judy Rodgers, 2002, W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.
“A very modest, very manageable interpretation of
the Tuscan “big pig”
that few Americans, or Italians, could ever manage at
home. (It is a formidable production even at the restaurant.) That
gargantuan dish is a whole roast pig, typically stuffed with fistfuls of stemmy herbs, capers, casually chopped garlic,
and sometimes fennel or
pickled gherkins, all challenged by bold doses of salt
and pepper. This
diminutive porchetta is made with a small piece of pork
inexpensive, underappreciated cut. Its mosaic of muscles provides plenty of
places to stuff the seasonings, and it has enough internal fat and
connective matter to self-baste and stay juicy as it slow-roasts. Buy,
stuff, and tie up you would-be porchetta 2 or 3 days before you plan
to roast it,
to give the flavors a chance to permeate the meat. Crowd this
little roast with
whatever root vegetables you like, choosing a larger or
smaller roasting pan,
depending on how many vegetables you want.
Make sure you have leftover porchetta so you can have a sandwich of the warm
meat, spread with a spoonful of fresh ricotta cheese, on a crusty bun
with the pan juices. Leftover bits of porchetta are also good torn
bits and shreds, moistened with olive oil and drippings, and
roasted for a few
minutes in a 400-degree oven. Toss with frisée or bitter
greens, add a few pecans,
and serve with Balsamic Onion Marmalade [recipe
included in cookbook] on
If your pork shoulder is a little large than the 3 pounds specified, you
should increase the stuffing amounts accordingly. If it is close to 4
pounds, or larger,
I recommend you turn it into two roasts to maintain the
cooking times and so
you get plenty of the caramelized, chewy outside with
Minus all the Tuscan herbs and seasonings, this is a good basic pork roast
method. Try it seasoned with nothing more than salt kneaded with a few
crushed juniper berries. That version is excellent with sauerkraut."
Wine: Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Kabinett,
[Wine notes and selections copyright © 2002 by Gerald Asher]
For 4 to 6 servings
One 1 1/2- to 3-pound boneless pork
shoulder butt roast
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, pressed dry
and barely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
About 12 fresh sage leaves, crushed, then coarsely
(about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons, packed)
A leafy sprig or two of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
(about 2 teaspoons, packed)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, barely crushed
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 to 2 pounds prepared vegetables of your choice:
chunks of peeled
carrot; onions cut into wedges;
quartered fennel bulbs; chunks of peeled
root, turnips, rutabagas, or parsnips; unpeeled
and/or chunks of potato
A little mild-tasting olive oil
About 2/3 cup Rich Pork Stock,
A few tablespoons of dry vermouth
Trimming, seasoning, and tying up the
pork (1 to 3 days in advance):
Trim any discoloration and all but a 1/4-inch-thick layer of superficial fat
from the pork. Study the natural seams between the muscles on each side
the meat. Choose one that runs the length of and close to the center of
face. Use the tip of a knife to gingerly separate the muscles along that
seam, gradually exposing more seams, which you should then separate as
The goal is to create lots of internal surfaces to cake with seasonings.
your initial foray doesn’t expose many internal seams, you can take a
stab at a different face, so long as you don’t cut the pork in two.
splayed piece of pork evenly all over (I use 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine the capers, lemon zest, garlic, sage, rosemary, with most of the
fennel seeds and black pepper. (You should get about 1/2 cup, loosely
packed.) Spread and pack this mixture all over the excavated insides of
pork butt, making sure the seasoning falls deep into the crannies
you’ve separated the muscles. Re-form the pork butt into its
and tie tightly into a uniform shape, tying 4 or 5 strings
circumference and another around the length of the roast.
Rub the remaining
fennel and pepper on the outside of the roast.
Collect and refrigerate any
loose herbs and seasonings. Cover the
pork loosely and refrigerate.
Roasting the porchetta (2 1/4 to 2 1/2
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the vegetables in a minimum of olive oil, barely coating the surfaces.
Add a few pinches of salt and toss again.
Heat a 12- or 14-inch ovenproof skillet, depending on how many vege-
you are roasting, over medium heat. Place the pork roast in the pan;
should sizzle. Surround with the vegetables. Place in the oven. The roast
should begin to color at 45 minutes; if not, turn the heat up to 375 degrees
until it does, then turn the heat back down. At 1 hour, turn the roast over
and roll the vegetables in the rendered fat. Work quickly, so you don’t lose
too much oven heat and the roast doesn’t cool off. Turn the roast again at
hours and add about 1/3 cup of the stock or water. Add any excess herbs and
seasonings to the pan juices at this point and swirl the pan so they sink
into the liquid. Roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, to about 185 degrees F.
The pork should be fragrant and glistening golden caramel.
Transfer the meat to a platter, tent loosely with foil, and leave in a warm,
protected spot while you make the pan sauce. Place the vegetables on a
separate warm plate.
Preparing the pan sauce and serving the
Tilt the skillet and spoon off the fat. Add the vermouth and the remaining
1/3 cup stock or water and set over low heat. Scrape and stir to dissolve
the caramelized drippings on the bottom and sides of the pan. Skim the
as the liquid comes to a simmer. Add any juice that may have trickled
the resting roast.
Slice the pork, removing the strings as you go, and
serve garnished with
vegetables and a spoonful of the rich pan sauce.
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