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David Lissner
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Eat this! Porchetta, a classic Italian pork roast


Porchetta at Sepia. (Photo courtesy Lara Kastner.)

Porchetta at Sepia. (Photo courtesy Lara Kastner.)

What it is: Traditionally, porchetta is a whole deboned pig, which is rolled with herbs, spitted and roasted.

Andrew Zimmerman (Photo courtesy Doug Snower)

Andrew Zimmerman

Where it comes from: The Italian Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) lists porchetta as a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale, one of the culturally significant agricultural foods of Italy. Ancient Roman writings mention it as far back as 400 B.C. It was a favorite meal of Emperor Nero, and frequently served at festive Roman banquets.

What to do with it: In Italy, market vendors sell porchetta as sandwich meat. Today, it is served throughout the country, with some regional variations in seasoning. At Sepia in the West Loop, Chef Andrew Zimmerman serves porchetta slices with roasted fingerling potatoes and local greens, at Sunday dinner, and sometimes at lunch layered in a sandwich with watercress, pickled fennel and pork jus.

Sepia’s porchetta
Italian-style pork roast
Chef Andrew Zimmerman

Zimmerman creates an updated, simplified version of porchetta starting with a pork loin, seasoned and wrapped in a pork belly. “When buying the loin and belly,” he says, “explain to your butcher what you intend to do with them. He will be impressed and most likely very helpful.”

Seasoning mix:
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons toasted fennel seed, crushed
6 bay leaves, toasted and ground
2-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

5 pounds pork belly, skin on
6 pounds boneless pork loin
Black pepper

1/2 cup white wine
3 cups pork or chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the roast one to two days before you want to cook the porchetta.

Mix the seasoning: Combine all the spices in a small bowl.

Prepare the meat: Trim the pork belly so that it is roughly the same width as the pork loin is long. The belly should be long enough to wrap around the pork loin once.

Rub the entire seasoning mix on the inside of the pork belly and the outside of the pork loin. Now, wrap the belly around the pork loin and try to get the belly to form a neat seam. Using butcher’s twine, tie up the roast at 2-inch intervals. Wrap the porchetta in plastic wrap, and let it start getting delicious in the refrigerator for two days.

Roast: When you are ready to roast, let the porchetta, come to room temperature for about two hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the outside of the porchetta liberally with salt and black pepper and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast 45 minutes.

Turn the roast 180 degrees around, and continue to cook, 2 to 2-1/2 hours more, until the internal temperature reaches about 135 degrees.

Remove from the oven and allow it to rest on cooling rack at least 30 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Make the sauce: Stir the wine into the roasting pan and place on the stovetop over high heat. Scrape up all the good brown bits and transfer the liquid to a saucepan. Add the stock and cook down until a light sauce consistency is reached.

Swirl in the cold butter and add salt and pepper as needed.

To serve: Slice the roast and serve with the sauce. 12 to 15 servings.

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