Porchetta Style Roast Pork Shoulder
I had first heard about a porchetta a few months ago and after learning of its existence I realized that there was a hole in my life. I didn’t know it was there before or maybe the porchetta created it, not sure and it doesn’t matter. The fact was that I knew how to fill it. I knew that I had to butterfly, stuff, roll and roast a lot of pork to fill it, and so I took up this task, made this Italian herb stuffed pork and filled that gap, becoming complete once again. Now enriched with this new wholeness, I take it on myself to enlighten those who were much like myself; deprived of this classic, succulent, flavorful roast without even the knowledge of it. It’s time to feast my friends.
6-7lb Pork Shoulder, Skin on & Butterflied
1 Tbs Black Peppercorns
2 Tspn Red Pepper Flakes
1-1/2 Tbs Fennel Seeds
10-12 Sage Leaves
1 Branch Rosemary
1 Tbs Fresh Thyme
1/4 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley
Zest of 1 Orange
4 Cloves Garlic minced
2 Tspn Capers minced
So first off what is a porchetta? Traditionally, it’s a pork belly and a pork loin butterflied, rolled together and seasoned very much the same way as the ingredients I used, especially the fennel seeds and herbs. Even more traditionally in Italy, they will debone a whole pig, stuff, roll and roast it on a spit. As great as this sounds it may have been a bit tough on my budget and my lack of a bonfire pit, spit and whole pig. A skin on pork shoulder is a great substitute for this.
When you buy a whole pork shoulder from a butcher, you can ask them to debone and butterfly it for you. Most of the time you can literally just say “I’m making a porchetta” and they’ll know what to do. If they do not butterfly it, you simply have to cut the thicker parts of the flesh horizontally, so that they turn into a flap. This is not a perfect process and as long as you don’t cut the meat right off, you can’t get it wrong.
There’s a lot of tendon and fat in a pork shoulder. Take a sharp knife and score the tendons in two directions, this will help it break up during the roast. Also, score the flesh to help the seasoning and herbs penetrate into the meat.
Take the fennel seeds, peppercorns and red pepper flakes and toast them slightly in a dry pan. Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to coarsely grind the mix. Be careful when grinding the red pepper flakes as the capsaicin, which is the chemical that causes the burning, can get on your hands and eyes. If you feel your hands burning when handling the powder, use some fresh lemon or vinegar to neutralize the burn.
Mince the herbs together and set aside. Combine the garlic, orange zest and capers and set that aside. Season your pork generously with salt making sure it gets into the slits. Next take your spice mix and toss that over the pork. After covering the meat, go back with your fingers and press it in. Next the garlic, zest and capers and then finally the minced herbs.
Roll the pork tightly and make sure the skin is on top. Next take a knife and score the skin in a crosshatch pattern. Finally take a few pieces of butchers twine and tie the pork into a nice tight package.
At this point you can store the pork in the fridge for 2 days if need be. In fact it’s best to store the pork uncovered in the fridge for at least 8 hours before roasting. This will help dry the skin out and make it wonderfully crisp and crunchy when roasted.
When ready to roast, set the oven to 300º. Take your roasting pan and put a splash of olive oil in the bottom and set it over medium heat. Place 4-5 cloves of unpeeled garlic in and a handful of the same herbs used for stuffing. Let the oil become fragrant and then move the garlic and herbs to the side and add the pork. Let the bottom of the pork sear in the pan and then move it on top of the herbs. Place in the oven, uncovered, for 3 hours. After 3 hours turn the oven temp up to 475 for 25 minutes.
Remove the pork from the roasting pan and let it rest on a carving board covered in foil for 15 minutes. While resting, place the pan back on the range over medium-high heat. When hot, add the white wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Strain the au jus into a bowl.
Carve the pork into 1/4″ slices at the table to keep warm and serve with the au jus.
Save leftover pork and jus for my Philly style pochetta sandwiches the next day.