Tag Archives: pork

Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down PorchettaWhen I was allowed to take the reins on planning Christmas dinner last month, I knew immediately what I wanted to make: Porchetta. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Porchetta is a slow-roasted Italian herbed pork dish that is traditionally made with whole pigs, but most home cooks use a center-cut pork loin wrapped in a sheet of pork belly.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI spent weeks planning this meal, going so far as to make a 1/4-sized tester in the days before Christmas. After that, I called Central Market (think Texas-specific Whole Foods…but way better than Whole Foods) and ordered all the meat. I packed my favorite knife, a sharpener, my largest meat cutting board, trussing string and an apron in my checked luggage and hightailed it to Fort Worth.Pared-Down PorchettaOver the next several days, my mom, sister and I obtained the special-ordered pork and made a great fuss over preparing it…except that it wasn’t actually that much fuss. Once the herb mix was prepared, I butterflied the center-cut pork loin and scattered it over the top. Then I rolled it up jelly-roll-style, rolled that in the sheet of pork belly and tied it all up with trussing string. Afterward, I let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator (“dry brining”) until Christmas Day, on which it was brought to room temperature and then roasted until golden and crisp and pretty irresistible.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaI was (am) very proud of myself and posted it to all my social media outlets, where I was promptly asked when I’d be posting a recipe. This was something I hadn’t even considered because while the Porchetta I made for Christmas is not particularly difficult to put together, but it *is* pricey.Pared-Down PorchettaThe meat had to be special-ordered for quantity and quality—a 5 pound sheet of skin-on pork belly is not an easy find—and came out to about $60. That’s $60 in Texas, so I’d guess it’s more like $80-$100 in New York, and that’s before the herbs. I love y’all, but not quite enough to spend hundreds testing one lone recipe.Pared-Down PorchettaBut. But! I had it in my head that I could give my beloved Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork recipe the Porchetta treatment, and Porchetta Queen Sara Jenkins (formerly of the Lower East Side, now of Maine) agrees. And so, with those recipes and the herb mixture I used at Christmas as guides, I set to work making this: the Pared-Down Porchetta. It’s got all the fatty, herby, meaty, crispy magic you love in traditional Porchetta, but it’s a little rough and tumble.Pared-Down PorchettaYes, it still has to sit in your fridge for a day or two, but it is made from just one piece of meat (a boneless pork butt AKA pork shoulder), is mostly hands-off, and won’t cost you an obscene-ish amount of money.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaLet’s start with the meat. This pork butt? It weighed in at 4.5 pounds and cost a cool $14–pretty reasonable compared to $60+! You’ll want it to have a layer of skin or a good, thick fat cap (pictured here) for both flavor and texture. If you can’t find a pork butt that fits either of those descriptions, you can purchase a piece of pork belly or pork skin and tie it onto the butt with trussing string. You want that fatty lid so it can keep the meat moist during roasting and then get crispy at the end. Cracklings are life, am I right?!Pared-Down PorchettaYour pork butt is unlikely to be in one seamless piece due to its heavy marbling and having had a bone cut out of it. This spot (or cavity or whatever you want to call it)? This is where the herb mixture will go. I used my knife to extend that opening down the length of the roast, while making sure to keep one edge intact.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnother thing you want? Kosher salt—about 1/2 teaspoon per pound. Don’t be tempted to skimp, or all the days of dry brining and the herbs and the money you spent will be for nothing. Salt is critical for both flavor and texture (it draws out moisture), and if used in proper amounts, will not leave your meat particularly salty, just flavorful. You’ll blitz most of it with toasted fennel seeds, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper flakes to make the herb mixture. The rest will be rubbed into the crosshatched skin/fat cap.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaYou will have to truss your pork butt, which is really no trouble. Just tie it at short intervals and then anywhere else it isn’t holding together as one cohesive unit. You want all those good herbs to stay put! Then stick the whole thing in a dish and put in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24-48 hours until it’s dry to the touch and the color has changed.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaAnd then roast it looooow and slooooow before crisping up that fat cap, and slicing and serving it on rolls or crusty bread that you’ve given the slightest dip in the rendered fat. You can also serve it alongside garlicky greens or roasted vegetables. Really, you can’t go wrong.Pared-Down PorchettaI feel like this Pared-Down Porchetta would be a wonderful main for Super Bowl Sunday, Oscar Night, Easter, or any old night. I mean, you could certainly hold onto this recipe until next Christmas, but that seems like an awfully long time from now, don’t you think?Pared-Down Porchetta

Pared-Down Porchetta
makes 8 (or so) servings

1 4-4.5 lb. boneless pork butt with skin or a thick fat cap*
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (about 1 medium-large lemon)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2-2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided

Special Equipment:
trussing string
a dutch oven or roasting dish

For serving:
rolls (I used Trader Joe’s Ciabatta Rolls)
crusty bread

Read this recipe carefully before proceeding. While the majority of it is hands-off, it will take a minimum of two days to prepare.

If your pork butt was trussed when you purchased it, cut off the trussing string and discard. Blot pork butt to remove excess moisture. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife (or razor blade) to crosshatch the skin.

Toast fennel seeds in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant. Remove to a bowl to cool.

Make the herb mixture. Combine sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic lemon zest, red pepper flakes,1 1/2-2 teaspoons* Kosher salt. and fennel seeds in a food processor and pulse to combine (alternatively, mince with a large, sharp chef’s knife).

Look at your pork butt. It is unlikely to be one stable piece, so take a look and see a natural spot to butterfly it. I chose an area that was already open, and used my knife to further the opening a bit more, leaving one edge still intact (see photos).

Fill opening with herb mixture and then fold back together. Some herb mixture will fall out—this is okay. Use trussing string/kitchen twine to truss the meat. Tie it together at 2-inch intervals and then any other directions necessary to hold it together as a cohesive unit. Rub the herb mixture that fell out of the butterflied section over the outside of the meat. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the crosshatched skin and lightly massage in. Place pork in a small dish (I used a 9-inch square pan) and refrigerate uncovered for 24-48 hours.

Remove pork from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for an hour. Place pork in a clean, dry oven-safe pot (I use my dutch oven).

Preheat oven to 250F. Place pork in the oven and let cook for 4.5-5.5 hours, until it registers 180F on a meat thermometer and is tender.

Remove pork from oven. Turn temperature up to 500F.

Return pork to the oven and let cook, turning the pot every 5 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. (Mine was done for 15 minutes, but I probably should have gone to 20.)

Let pork cool for 20 minutes before carefully, removing trussing string, slicing and serving with rolls or crusty bread.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

Note:

1. If you cannot find a boneless pork butt with skin or a fat cap, purchase a piece of pork belly or skin to tie on with trussing string. I’ve seen pork belly for sale at Whole Foods, Whole Foods 365, Costco and some regular supermarkets.

2. You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt per pound of meat, so 2 teaspoons for 4 lbs or 2 1/2 teaspoons for 4.5 lbs. With that knowledge, set aside 1/2 teaspoon of the salt for the skin/fat cap and add the rest to the herb mixture.Pared-Down PorchettaPared-Down PorchettaPared-Down Porchetta

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}On New Year’s Eve, I made dinner for 300 people. Well, it wasn’t all me–I had spectacular help, including a professional chef who cooked with me for ten straight hours on his day off–but I was in charge. This wasn’t my first rodeo with large-scale cooking (I make pies and cakes for groups of 100 or more many times throughout the year), but three hundred is a lot for someone who doesn’t list catering on her résumé. When I was asked to do this event in November, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu that included five types of enchiladas, Borracho beans, rice, and chips and salsa. At first it seemed feasible, but as the weeks went on, I started to panic. How was I going to roll a thousand enchiladas? Even with help and a professional kitchen, that’s a lot. How was I even going to get the thousand tortillas from the factory in Queens? Like many New Yorkers, I don’t have a car. Does the Brooklyn Costco actually carry sweet potatoes (for the vegetarians)? This remains a mystery. I left for Christmas in Austin feeling doomed to fail. But then, there was pozole.

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}The day after Christmas, my mom, younger sister, and I went for lunch at El Alma. My sister said their nopales salad was the best (and she was right), but we wanted something to go with it. Since it was midday, a full enchilada plate seemed…heavy. We were about to pester our waiter with a million questions when he mentioned their daily special, red pozole: a pork and hominy* stew in a delicious chile-based broth, served with all sorts of toppings so each person can customize their bowl. Ours arrived with little plates of sliced cabbage, avocado, radishes, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, fried tortillas, and lime wedges. I added a little bit of everything and dug in. Now, I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know that it would change the course of my week. Part way through lunch, my mom suggested that this would be good for the New Year’s Eve party.

 *Hominy is maize that has been washed in an alkaline solution. It’s chewy, hearty, and fantastic.

At first I shrugged it off, but then I got to thinking: stew is generally simple to make, it’s easy to expand, and everybody loves toppings. By the end of the weekend, I had cancelled the tortilla order, looked at every posole recipe I could find, and rewritten the menu–three types of posole, a salad, and chips and salsa. After a few huge shopping trips (including one during which a friend and I bought 91 pounds of canned hominy while the employees of a Sunset Park supermarket looked on in horror), two days of cooking, and only one hour of absolute panic (just before service), it was time for dinner.

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}In all of my preparation, I didn’t anticipate one thing: New Yorkers–the ones I know, at least–have never heard of Pozole. At first, people didn’t quite know what to make of their dinners, but with a little instruction, soon everybody was raving and coming back for seconds. I made a chicken version and a vegan sweet potato-black bean, but pork was the most popular by a long shot. It was gone before everyone had gotten through the line the first time! Since the party, I’ve gotten at least ten requests for my recipe, and I am happy to oblige.

Pozole starts with mixing together a combination of chili powder(s), cumin, and salt. This will be the entire basis for flavor in this dish. You may use any chili powder you prefer here. I like to use a 1:1 combination of ancho chile powder and standard chili powder, just because the ancho adds a lot of authenticity to the finished dish. If you’d like to go a little spicier, I recommend adding chile de arbol powder or a pinch of cayenne. Just taste as you mix–make sure you like the baseline flavor. Toss half of your spice mix with some pork shoulder that you’ve cut into bite-sized pieces, then sear in batches. You don’t need to cook the pork all the way through (it’ll cook for a long time in the broth); you’re just adding flavor and texture. Once all the meat has been seared, sauté an onion and some garlic for a few minutes, until everything is fragrant. Then add in a 6-ounce can of tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste/onion/garlic mixture for several minutes, so that it starts to darken and caramelize. Add in the remainder of your spice mixture, some dried oregano, the pork, and a bay leaf, and then submerge everything in water. Cover the pot, bring everything to a boil, and reduce it to a simmer for 90 minutes to two hours, until the meat is very tender. Then add two cans of hominy that have been drained and rinsed, cover the pot again, and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Finally, take the stew off the heat, squeeze in some lime juice and adjust the salt, and serve with a plate of toppings. The tender pork and chewy hominy, in combination with the chile broth and crunchy, fragrant toppings, are to die for.

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}Red Pozole is a warm, comforting, and fairly healthy meal for these cold days. It’s great for a Sunday dinner, and with so many options for topping, even picky eaters will be excited about it. Speaking of toppings, you can eat it multiple times in a week without having the same bowl twice! It’s easy to scale up or down (this recipe was originally for 150!), so it’s great for entertaining or freezing for later. I’m sure Red Posole could even be made in a slow cooker, but I don’t have one, so I haven’t tried. If you do, let me know! I really can’t say enough good things about this recipe. Warm up with Red Pozole this winter!

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew} Red Pozole
heavily adapted from the Chicago Tribune
makes 8 to 10 servings

Spice Mixture:
1/4 cup chili powder*
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Stew:
3-4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 pounds pork shoulder*, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large white onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
water
2 15-ounce cans yellow or white hominy*, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt (or more, to taste)

Garnishes:
crumbled queso fresco
sliced avocado
sliced cabbage (any color)
chopped fresh cilantro
sliced radishes
lime wedges
fried tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips

In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, and salt. Coat pork in 3 tablespoons of the mixture.

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat. Sear pork in batches. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, adding oil as necessary–do not worry about cooking it through. Once all pork has been seared, pour off all but one tablespoon of leftover fat.

Turn heat to medium. Sauté diced onion until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Stir tomato paste into onion and garlic. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to darken and caramelize. Stir in remaining spice mixture and oregano. Add seared pork back to the pot, followed by enough water so that everything is fully submerged. Add the bay leaf, and give everything a good stir. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. When it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 90 minutes to two hours, until meat is tender. Do not uncover the pot unless to stir the stew. Add more water if it reduces at all.

When meat is tender, stir in hominy and let continue to simmer, covered, for thirty minutes. Remove from heat, and squeeze in the juice of a lime. Check for seasoning, and adjust salt as necessary. Ladle Pozole into shallow bowls, and serve with garnishes of choice.

Leftover Posole keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. Discard any solidified fat before reheating.

Notes:
 1.  You may use any chili powder you choose. I prefer a combination of 2 tablespoons each ancho chile powder and regular chili powder.
2.  You may also use pork stew meat or pork butt. When I can’t find pork shoulder, I use a combination of pork tenderloin and pork butt. This recipe also works well with chicken.
3.  Hominy can be found at most large supermarkets. I find mine in the Goya aisle of Key Food. If you can’t find any, frozen corn might be a good (if inauthentic) substitute.

Red Pozole {Mexican Pork & Hominy Stew}