Sunday, April 29, 2012

Smoked Porchetta. You're Going to Need Some of Those Giant Elastic Maternity Pants for This One....

Ever wonder how the word "amazing" suddenly became the go-to adjective for anything that is "good?" I do. If anyone asks you to describe something you like, I guarantee a good portion of you would describe it as "amazing" almost automatically. Everywhere you go, in any medium that reaches your eyes or ears, you are being indoctrinated with the "amazingness" of...everything. This really eats me up.
Don't think it's an epidemic? Allow me to help you help yourself to some evidence:
Go to any media website, and in their search box, type in the word "amazing." Then, stand back and prepared to be amazed.
NY Times:
 " is Amazing,"
 "The Amazing Matzo Stimulus,"
 "Mahler is Ok, but Gustavo, He's Amazing"

Better Homes & Garden:
"Amazing Vases,"
"Amazing Amyrillis For Your Home,"
"the Amazing Aspirin"

US Weekly (The worst linguistic criminal of them all):
"Amazing! See Snooki Without Her Makeup"
"Amazing American Idol Makeovers!"
"Michelle Obama's Amazing Style!"

It's everywhere! Amazing Aspirin?!?!?! What could possibly be amazing about Snooki's Makeup?!?!?!?!?

The word means, quite simply "causing great surprise or sudden wonder" according to If you are a chronic "Amazing" addict, is a great tool, because it has a button called "THESAURUS," which isn't about dinosaurs, but which will in fact open your minds to literally tens of words that you can use instead of your Prrrrecious (roll the r's).

Can a vase really cause you to feel great surprise? Can matzo fill you with sudden wonder? Even if the vase was made out of unicorn fetuses and sprouted out a never ending supply of Moon Pies, already microwaved for 15 seconds and an accompanying Wet-Nap, I would still not accurately describe it as "amazing."

It's like cursing. If you infect every sentence you come up with with the same words, it doesn't take long for them to lose meaning. Hold on to them. Cherish them. Then, when you come across a situation that really fits, whip them out in all their glory. I promise, it will  make for a more satisfying experience for you and your listener, and it will make me want to slap you MUCH MUCH less.

Rant over. There are two things that I will call amazing.
1. Grace. If you have questions, email me.
2. Porchetta. Continue reading

Porchetta is a pork dish from italy that involves rolling up a hunk of pork with a lot of herbs and awesomeness, salting the dickens out of it, then roasting it until the inside is tender and juicy and the outside is a crispy, salty bacony shell of happiness. I had never actually had porchetta, but last week on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Captain Spray-Tan went to a place called Meat & Bread in Vancouver, and my mind was blown. These guys have a sandwich shop, and their signature dish is made with porchetta. They used a whole piece of pork from tenderloin to belly, with the bones removed and the skin still on. They rolled it up with a salt rub and an herb mixture, then slathered the outside with olive oil and more salt rub, then slow roasted it before putting it on a ciabatta roll with some wicked looking salsa verde. I felt my jowls watering as I watched it being made, and I knew I had to replicate it......
Here is the spot from the show

Smoked Porchetta
1 Pork tenderloin
1 pork belly (Skin-on is ideal, but I couldn't find one, so I used a skinless)
        ***the belly needs to be about 10-12 inches square
1 cup kosher salt (or sea salt)
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp crushed toasted fennel seed
1 tbsp crushed toasted coriander seed
1/2 tsp chopped dried rosemary
the zest of 2 lemons
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Italian Parsley
Fresh Sage leaves
Fresh Fennel Fronds (this is the green part on top of the bulb that looks like a fern)
Olive oil

First, using a meat mallet, pound out the belly until it is pretty uniform in thickness. The pounding also helps tenderize the fat side, which helps with rendering. After you have taken out your frustrations on the belly, use a sharp knife to score about 1/4 inch deep in a cross hatch pattern both sides of the belly. Lay the belly out fat side down and then lay the tenderloin across it lengthwise. Cut the tenderloin so it fits just inside the length of the belly. Set the tenderloin aside.

Toast the whole fennel seeds and coriander seeds in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until they really start to smell up the kitchen. Be careful not to scorch them. Then transfer them to a spice grinder, coffee grinder, food processor, mortar and pestle, or whatever you have that will make them into powder. Mix salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, rosemary, fennel and coriander mixture and lemon zest in a bowl. This is your salt rub. Liberally sprinkle this all over the meat side of the belly.

Coarsley chop the parsley, sage, fresh rosemary and fennel fronds, removing large stem pieces, then sprinkle this liberally on top of the salt rub.

Now, place the loin at the top of the belly, and tightly roll it up. When you finish, use butcher's string to tie the whole meat log together tightly.

Rub the whole monstrosity with olive oil, then thoroughly coat the outside with the remaining salt rub.

At Meat & Bread, they cooked theirs in an oven at 275 degrees for 1.5 hours, or until the pork got to temperature (140 degrees), then put it in a broiler for 30 more minutes to crisp the skin.

I opted to smoke my porchetta over hickory chips, and I am oh so glad I did. It definitely added to the amazingness of the final product. I preheated the smoker to 275, then added soaked hickory chips to the coals every 30 minutes for 2 hours, when the pork reached the right temperature. I then transferred it to the oven set to broil for about 10 minutes (less for me because my belly didn't have skin). Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, then carve it up!

Like Meat & Bread, we served it on ciabatta rolls with green sauce made from the same ingredients used in the salt rub and herb mixture. The two condiments we added that they omit were pickled red onions (my new favorite meat add-on) and shredded lettuce dressed with a fiery vinaigrette.

The porchetta was AMAZING. The Sandwich was AMAZING. It filled me with AWE and WONDER. This was kind of a complicated undertaking, and it definitely isn't for everyday cooking, but when trying to track down a skin-on pork belly, I made contact with Chef Craig Hartman from the always-impressive BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, VA, and he is going to hook me up with a whole suckling pig to use for this when I have my big cookout this year. BOOM. Prepare to be amazed.

Do Shakespeare a favor and try to at least be conscious of how many times you say the word amazing today. You'll be amazed.

Words to limit the use of after "amazing":
pretentious (you can use this one if you know what it means)
flavor profile
douchebag (I'm guilty)
pitchy (you know who you are)
any word that you playfully add the word -sauce to. (Awesome-sauce)
any word that you playfully add the word -balls to. (Amaze-balls)

What words do you hear too much, Loyal Reader? (singular)