Friday, January 27, 2017


Last Year's Post: Sesame Salmon en Papillote
Two Years Ago:  Hand Blended Loose Leaf Chai Tea

Although Porchetta (pronounced porketta) has been around for a while in the United States, it's recently become very trendy because its fatty nature goes well with the current pork belly craze.  From Wikipedia: Porchetta is a savoury, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast of Italian culinary tradition. The body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily salted in addition to being stuffed with garlicrosemaryfennel, or other herbs, often wild. 

The Lawyer's family used to buy an Americanized version at a local grocery store, which involved the traditional herbs patted onto the outside of a boneless pork loin.  Since pork used to be less dry, that worked pretty well.  But pork is so lean now that a pork loin can dry out, which is why chefs have started rolling pork belly into the roast along with the herbs.  I find pork belly to be chewy, fatty, and generally disgusting so I was looking for a better alternative.  Pork tenderloin is naturally tender, roasts faster and has the advantage of feeding a small family without massive leftovers so I challenged myself (and The Lawyer) to make a pork tenderloin porchetta.  (If you want to make a porchetta using a larger pork loin and wrapping it in pancetta for moisture, here is the recipe I used as inspiration.)

It was a fun little project and we were very happy with the results, both that night and in sandwiches the following day.  I cut down on the amount of salt and pepper in the herb mixture, but otherwise used the traditional mix of garlic, sage, rosemary, fennel seeds, lemon juice and orange peel for the herb rub for both the inside and outside of the roast.  The only slightly tricky part was how to butterfly such a small cut of meat.  Rather than the traditional approach which involves carefully cutting a flap around the outside of a larger roast, we found the easiest way to open a tenderloin is by making 3 long and deep cuts down the length and then gently pounding the meat flat to even thickness.

Then all you have to do is rub in the herb paste, tie up, and roast it.  

Because the herb paste gives the meat so much flavor, all you really need for a delicious sandwich is some high-quality mayonnaise and lettuce.  If you want to go big, I've seen porchetta sandwiches on restaurant menus with broccoli rabe pesto and provolone which is also great.  The big bold flavors go particularly well with beer, which is why you'll often see porchetta sandwiches on brewery menus.  Just remember their version will likely have pork belly and be quite fatty.  I'm happier with this healthy version.

Serves 4

1 (1.25 lb) pork tenderloin
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ cup packed fresh rosemary leaves
¼ cup packed fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 strips (each ½” x 2”) orange peel, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kitchen string, for tying

Preheat oven to 350d.

Prepare the pork by removing any extra fat or silver skin.  Pat dry.  Make a cut down the center of the pork loin about ¾ of the way through, but do not cut in half.  On either side of this cut, make another deep cut to open the tenderloin so it lays flat.  Cover with plastic wrap and gently pound the tenderloin to an even thickness.

Place the garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, fennel seeds and orange zest in a small food processor and finely chop them.  Add the lemon juice and olive oil and process again until a thick paste forms (add a small amount more oil if necessary).

Spread half the herb paste on the tenderloin and roll up from the long edge.  Tie at regular intervals with kitchen string to keep it closed.  Spread the remaining herb paste on the outside of the tenderloin and place in a roasting pan.  If desired, the tenderloin can be prepared to this point and refrigerated, covered, for several hours.  Remove and let come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before proceeding.

Roast, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes until the internal temperature of the meat is 140-145d.  Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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