Now we have a beautiful skin on pork roast rolled and tied and ready for the fire. The question what is the best way to cook something like this? At both restaurants, Cafe Capriccio in Albany, and Capriccio Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York; we have wood burning ovens. This is the best way to cook skin on pig, hands down. The heat radiates from all directions making the skin wonderfully crisp and delicious. The wood oven loses heat as the cooking progresses which first seals and helps crisp up the roast then slowly roasts the tender juicy meat within.
Most of us home cooks are not lucky enough to have a wood burning oven in our kitchen so we have to use our conventional ovens and try to replicate the conditions in the wood oven. It will never be the same, but your porchetta roasted at home will be almost equally delicious. First I would preheat your oven to 500 degrees. I do not add anything to the outside of the porchetta. There is enough flavor and fat in the skin already, oil, salt, or pepper is superfluous.
Put the porchetta in a heavy roasting pan, with some chopped onions, carrots, potatoes, rosemary, if you wish to facilitate a pan sauce; and put in the hot oven. Allow to roast for 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 350 degrees. If your oven is very hot, you may need to turn the heat down as soon as you put the porchetta in the oven. Roast until the internal temperature is 140 degrees, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes, carve and serve. This will give you a tender juicy, medium-well Porchetta. If you want a tender, fall apart, juicy Porchetta allow to roast even longer until the internal temperature is close to 200 degrees. Cooking times will vary between depending on the size of your roast, your oven, and the degree of doneness you choose. If you do not have a meat thermometer go buy one. They are cheap, readily available at your grocery store, and indispensable for properly cooking any king of meat!
Serve with Tuscan style white beans. Simply soak a pound of dry white beans overnight. Drain, cover just barely with fresh water, add one bay leaf, a pinch of black pepper, a sprig of rosemary and some good olive oil. NO SALT at this point. Bring to a boil gently and reduce to a simmer. You may have to add a splash of water if it become dry. The beans should be barely covered the entire cooking time. Salt when almost done. Cooking time will be 20-40 minutes depending on the age of the beans. Remove from the heat until ready to serve, Do not drain.
Another wonderful contorno is Tuscan Kale. Aka Dinosaur Kale, Black Kale, or Lacinato Kale. As with all dark greens, Tuscan Kale is a super food filled with many nutrients, and delicious at that. It is also a great plant to try if you like vegetable gardening. It easily grows from seed, and is a great late season crop. I have had Tuscan Kale plants live into January in upstate New York. They say the cold actually improves the flavor as well.
To prepare, cut the stem ends of by an inch or two and steam or blanch for 5 minutes or so until just tender but not soggy. Drain, allow to cool slightly, Then roughly chop. Heat some good olive oil in a pan, add some sliced garlic and cook gently until fragrant but not brown, then add the chopped kale. Saute, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper for 5-10 minutes. Cover and set aside until needed.
When ready to carve the porchetta you may slice thinly and chop up the crisp cracklins of skin, or cut into thick steaks with the skin attached. Serve with a spoon of the white beans, the sauteed kale, and some of the juice from the roasting pan. Some roasted potatoes wouldn't hurt but are by no means necessary. Drizzle everything with a great olive oil, preferably Tuscan new oil with its peppery pungent flavor. Don't forget a sturdy Tuscan red wine.