Last week I picked up an epic piece of pork belly for another project and couldn’t resist trimming off a chunk for our weekly date night dinner. I was quite excited about it and knew cooking a pork belly porchetta was going to get a “WOW! You rocked it!” reaction from Cheryl (which it did).
I’m still excited about this dish a week later. It’s one of the more inspirational dishes I’ve come up with in a while and I really threw myself into it. I mean, I could have easily just made some bacon but to be perfectly honest, I would have felt a little guilty doing that. You always hear clichés like ‘honor the ingredients,’ well this was one of those times it fit. There were such wonderful layers of meat and fat, yes it would have made some pretty great bacon, but it made an even better pork belly porchetta.
I got the idea from a cookbook I received for Christmas; Rotis, Roasts for Every Day of the Week. It’s a pretty good cookbook with (as I’m sure you’ve figured out) recipes of different roasts for each day of the week. Sunday=lamb, Monday=beef, etc. Thursday is pork. I previously tried a roasted pork belly recipe which was fine but the instructions didn’t quite get the skin crispy. More like…soft and gummy. And that is not good, trust me. Maybe it’s because I cooked it on a Sunday instead of Thursday.
Anyway, for our Thursday cook-at-home date night I fully intended on giving that particular recipe another go in order to try and fix skin issue. However, while looking through the other roast pork recipes I saw one for a rolled and stuffed loin.
Click. Light bulb on. Stuff with herbs and mustard, roll it up, and make pork belly porchetta. (Ok so it’s not really a porchetta, more like a roulade, but I’m the cook here so I get to call it what I want.)
I don’t think I need to tell you this turned out sooooo delicious! While I don’t want to say my technique was flawless, I was really in the zone with detailed attention. I rubbed the inside of the belly with some salt and herbs and refrigerated for the day to infuse some flavor into the meat. I consulted the Flavor Bible for some combination ideas for the stuffing settling on mustard, garlic, and apples. I scored the skin and rubbed some nutmeg and salt into it. I trimmed the belly just right so it would roll up into a perfectly tight cylinder. Basically, the pork belly was really cared for and pampered. People laugh when you say the secret ingredient is love but I do think if you’re in a happy place when cooking it comes out in the finished product.
Enough of my babbling, here are few notes on technique for cooking this to near perfection.
A key part of this pork belly porchetta is the crispy skin. Most instructions I came across on the internet suggested 500°F for 30 minutes to sufficiently make crackling but I think you need to adjust it for the size of the belly you have. For my small 2-3 pound roast one side was almost burnt after 10 minutes so keep an eye on it. Overall it took less than 20 minutes to crisp it up to my desired level. Oh and if you have any onions or apples in the pan in anticipation of making a sauce, remember to take them out when you go to crisp at the high temperature. They’ll burn.
The mustard based stuffing was very good but I felt the apples were overpowered by it. Feel free to add more apples or cut back on the mustard if you like. Some stuffing will inevitably squeeze out when you go to roll up the belly and tie it. But that’s ok, just stuff it back in the ends of the tied belly.
Do I need to tell you leftovers (if any) make excellent sandwiches when sliced thin and quickly fried on a griddle?
Pork Belly Porchetta
- 2-3 lb pork belly
- Kosher salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 5-6 Tbs parsley, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 Tbs grainy mustard
- ½ apple, small dice
- ½ apple, slices
- 1 small onion sliced
- Kitchen twine
- 1-2 Tbs butter
- Calvados or Cider
Trim the belly into a nice rectangle. Season with salt, crushed bay leaves, and thyme. Rub into the interior of the belly (non-skin side). Wrap in plastic and set in fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
Combine the minced parsley, garlic, mustard, and apple in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
When ready to stuff and cook remove pork belly from refrigerator and rinse off the salt, bay leaves, thyme under cold water.
Pre-heat the oven to 300°F.
Lay the belly out flat on a cutting board, skin side up. With a very sharp knife (or razor blade) slash/score the skin in diagonal lines making a diamond pattern. Season with salt and allspice, run into skin and slashes.
Flip the belly over so it is skin side down. Spread the herb mixture over the belly.
Take one edge of the pork belly and roll it tightly onto itself. Tie the pork belly like a roast with the kitchen twine to keep its shape.
Heat butter in a large ovenproof pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Brown the pork roll on all sides.
Add remaining ½ apple and onion slices to pan and place pork belly in oven. Roast for 2-2 ½ hours. Don’t worry there’s lots of fat in there to keep things from drying out. Occasionally baste/add ½ C some calvados or cider.
Remove roast from oven and turn up the oven temperature to 500°F. Return the roast to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes on each side in order to crisp up the skin for crackling.
When skin is crispy remove from oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve!