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Nov 1, 2005 09:03 AM

Zuni mock porchetta report + frozen meat question (long)

  • l

After considering a change to rabbit I returned to my original plan of the Zuni mock porchetta for a dinner I had on Saturday.

(First a digression into using frozen meat: I knew we had a pork shoulder in our basement freezer. I asked my husband, who had bought it, how much it weighed. "About three pounds, I think," was his answer. Perfect! I asked him to take it out to thaw. He procrastinated, and later said he thought it was about five pounds. Hmmm--possibly too big for the Zuni recipe, but maybe doable in two pieces. Well, by the time he finally took it out, it turned out to be ELEVEN POUNDS [he had bought it intending to do pulled pork but had not yet got round to this]. Needless to say, far too big for this recipe and this group of six! I had to hit Whole Foods for pork shoulder. But is there any way for me to use part of this behemoth? Is it possible/safe to partially thaw the giant cut, trim it into more manageable pieces, and re-freeze at least some of them, without totally sacrificing quality?)

So--I bought a more suitable hunk of pork shoulder and seasoned it on Wednesday for dinner Saturday. I followed the recipe pretty closely but left out the fennel seed, because I can't abide it--I find the flavor too harsh and overwhelming. The directions in the Zuni book, as usual, were a breeze to follow. Only one slight worry--my whole fridge smelled of lemon zest and garlic for a few days.

Cooking the roast went according to plan; as with some of the other Zuni recipes I've tried, forethought and preparation are required but the cooking itself is simple and straightforward. If you are used to cooking lean pork loin roasts, be prepared--this is a very fatty cut, and even after trimming and roasting there is quite a bit of marbling. But this makes for a very flavorful, if humble-looking, dish. It was a big hit with the dinner guests, one of whom proclaimed it the best pork roast she'd ever had.

For the vegetables I used a couple of small fennel bulbs (to make up for the lack of seed in the seasoning rub), an onion and quite a lot of shallots and garlic. They were delicious cooked in the pork fat/juices, and made a pretty plate with the sliced pork. On the side I made a coarse-grained polenta, cooked in the Zuni manner (long and slow in lots of water). To start I had butternut squash soup with fried sage, after the pork I had an arugula salad with pears and a little bit of shaved parmesan, and for dessert, gingerbread with stewed quince.

And of course, we made sandwiches of the leftovers with ricotta as recommended by Judy Rodgers. Bliss!

The Zuni cookbook is the best purchase I've made in a long, long time. I'm so glad this board brought it to my attention, and I recommend this recipe for the many Zuni fans out there (and anyone else who wants to know what all the fuss is about).


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  1. Thanks for the detailed report.

    I love this board--wish you all lived in my neighborhood so we could chat WHILE enjoying eachother's cooking!

    {Because of all of the talk about Zuni, I have asked for the cookbook for Christmas.}

    1. Your dinner menu sounds fantastic and very well thought out!! I was salivating as I read your post. Glad it turned out well.

      I saw some quince at the farmer's market and will probably buy some to experiment with. What is your stewing method?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        I stewed the quince in honey and white wine after cooking it in some butter and a smidge of sugar, based on a recipe from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts (an incredibly useful book). I had never cooked quince before but they smelled so heavenly at the market I had to have them. The stewing method worked very well and they were a hit with everyone who tried them. I've bought more and I think I might try to make quince vodka or brandy, or maybe a sorbet out of syrup made with the peel and core (Jane Grigson, in her Fruit Book, recommends making such a syrup, and also recommends putting a couple in the living room and bedroom for their gorgeous scent!).

        I'm happy to paraphrase any of this if you're interested!

        1. re: LindaMc

          Thanks, no paraphrasing necessary. I didn't realize that quince would smell much, so I'll be sure to sniff for the good ones.

          How do you prep the quince for stewing? Ie, do you peel and then slice or chunk? How big?

          1. re: Carb Lover

            I peel them, quarter them, core and then slice. They are pretty dense and a bit harder to handle than apples, so make sure your knife is well-steeled! I sliced them about 1/2" last time but might try a bit thinner next time.

            I didn't notice the smell when I bought them (on a very chilly morning), only when I opened the bag later to prepare them. Intoxicating!