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Jan 19, 2006 03:52 AM

Zuni mock porchetta...nothing to mock about

  • c

Can you bear more Zuni gushing? I finally got around to making the mock porchetta recipe in the book, and once again, another Zuni winner that had our eyes rolling back in their sockets and moans and groans during the first few minutes of tasting. I have no idea what true Italian porchetta tastes like, but this shortcut version was nothing to mock about. See my photos (double your pleasure!) below.

Link to the recipe online is also below. It looks pretty much like the book version, but one error is that it should read one 2.5-3 lb. boneless pork shoulder butt roast. This cut is perfect for roasting and has so much wonderful marbling and inherent flavor.

I pretty much followed the recipe, but I didn't have sage on hand so omitted. The seasonings melded into one unique herbal flavor and nothing stood out strongly. I know that some people don't care for fennel seed, but the roasting really tamed the flavor and made it hum.

What was really striking was that when I sliced into the meat, there was a deep pink ring around the edge that transitioned to the mocha-colored meat. Images of Chinese bbq pork, tandoori chicken, and smoky pork ribs danced in my head. As some of you are aware of my caramelization fetish, I hogged the crunchy sticky bits on the outside for myself. (oink oink) The interior was really delicious too. It reminded me of the glistening sliced pork that comes in a bowl of ramen (the version at Ramen Halu in San Jose to be exact). Gentle, soothing, savory compared to the craggly, bold, sweet exterior.

I made my sauce w/ a decent amount of pinot noir (instead of vermouth) and chicken broth, then finished w/ a pat of butter. Little goes a long way. I must also mention the roasted veggies that were deeply sweet, sticky from their own sugar, and engorged w/ savory pork fat goodness. Carrots and garlic in their peels were particularly divine. I'm going to def. add fennel next time though.

Go make this dish before winter has faded and you have to trim down for summer vanity. Live high on the hog, I say!



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  1. I love your Zuni posts! When I first saw the cookbook I glanced over it and then decided it wasn't for me, but your posts have made me think otherwise. I'm not even through my first cup of coffee and already my mouth is watering because of those photos.
    I may make that this weekend...

    1 Reply
    1. re: CeeBee

      Well, the whole book may not be for you or everyone, but certainly give these standout recipes a try. So easy when they're available for free online. The chicken and bread salad was worth the cost of the book IMO. The writing style has really grown on me, and I discover something new each time I read the text more closely. I'm going to try the roasted artichokes tonight since they looked esp. plump and healthy at my market...

      PS. To Nathan P., we are making sandwiches w/ leftovers for tonight!

    2. k
      King of Northern Blvd.

      Excellent. I received the Zuni book for Christmas but haven't had the time yet to really go through it, but the Porchetta pic in the book really stood out. Yours looks equally as appealing if not moreso. I managed to make the chicken last week and my wife said I am not allowed to make any of my previous chicken recipes anymore. Not even Marcella's...

      5 Replies
      1. re: King of Northern Blvd.

        I too got the cookbook for Christmas. How could CL think we would be tired of hearing about gorgeous and deliciously prepared food? It's what we live for! (more or less)

        1. re: Funwithfood

          Me too! My sister finally got sick of me gushing about the recipes, the restaurant, and forcing her to look at all of CL's photos.

          I love pork butt; do you think the recipe would work with half the amount of pork? Did it take very long to prep? How about using a cast iron skillet? Sorry, lots of questions today. I must break in my new cookbook!

          1. re: nooodles

            Oh yeah, my plot to reel in more Zuni devotees has worked, and I can't wait to see posts from everyone about recipes and variants I have yet to try.

            To answer your questions:

            1. I wouldn't go smaller than what the recipe calls for. You want a nice hunk o meat as well as leftovers for sandwiches. Other porchetta recipes usually call for double the size, so this one is relatively small.

            2. Prepping was very easy. The most difficult part about a Zuni recipe for me is having the forethought to time pre-seasoning so that it can marinate in the seasonings for 2-3 days.

            3. I think a cast iron skillet would be great, as long as it's big enough to nestle in your veggies. In fact, I may try cast iron next time since I think it would make the crust even more delectable.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I just tried this recipe last week, and can confirm that a cast iron skillet works great. In fact, I had a second, smaller pan going for the veggie spillover. All wonderful. Thank you for writing about it.

              A question, though - the recipe says it's done at an internal temp of 185 degrees, which strikes me as kind of well done - I stopped at 165 and it was fully cooked inside (no pink), and plenty moist -- just the way I like it. Have you all been cooking it until the thermometer hits 185?

              1. re: Helen F

                Sometimes I like to taste and texture of pork cooked past the just done stage. If you have a fatty piece of pork shoulder give it a try.


      2. Yum-sounds porkylicious! The exterior is just gorgeous. I've been wanting to make this since getting the book. It'll be interesting to see how it compares to the slow & long roasted recipe that Christine posted the other week.

        1 Reply
        1. re: petradish

          I think that if you have the time, roasting on lower heat for longer time could only make it better (assuming you can get the nice crust on the outside). Would make it more fork tender and allow fat and cartilage to break down. Hope to try Christine's recipe one day...

        2. Assuming you did not eat the whole thing, go out and buy some good ricotta, some peppery greens and some francese rolls for mock Porchetta sandwiches.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Nathan P.

            Just to put your mind at ease, we did have sandwiches w/ leftovers tonight. Delicious. I used francese bread (for non-locals: what bakeries in Santa Cruz Co. use to mean ciabatta style), baby arugula, and Bellwether Farms fromage blanc or farmer's cheese. I also made vinegared onions by sauteeing some red onions and splashing w/ sherry vinegar and pinch sugar at last min. I sliced the pork and then heated up in 400F toaster oven til heated and sizzling.

            Flavors balanced nicely. Onions were key IMO. Never had that fromage blanc before, but it was lovely. Sorta like a cross btwn. ricotta and mild goat cheese in both flavor and texture. I think Ms. Rodgers would approve...


            1. re: Carb Lover

              The roast looked great, but I will take the sandwich! Of course I would put twice as much pork on it. Nothing wrong with a little improv. My next porchetta project is to do the mock style with a belly wrapped loin.

              1. re: Nathan P.

                I did put about twice as much pork on Y's. I'm nice that way. :-)

                Are you talking about francese rolls that Kelly's sells? I saw those, but figured that we could use a loaf in the house. I think the rolls probably would have been better for these sandwiches since they're flatter and not too bready.

                Oh, and that linked porchetta is some serious stuff. Let us know when you do your belly wrap!

              2. re: Carb Lover

                oh and check out this porchetta. Though with a bowl of that burro del chianti I might not complain about francese bread in restaurants! Oh and FYI, francese rolls are not the same as francese loaves- same dough but different texture, crumb balance etc... I love the rolls though I am sick of the loaves.


            2. probably a stupid question, but....

              Is a pork shoulder butt roast the same thing as those cylindrical "pork roast"s that I see at the grocery store? I don't think I ever see any fresh pork except loin, roast, chop or rib.

              sounds great. there's a Carribean restaurant I fetishize that serves pork that is so luscious and moist, but with that dark, crusty chew to the crust...oh my God it's like digging for gold in those enchiladas. I'd love to make my pork taste and feel like that. Thanks.

              5 Replies
              1. re: danna

                Not a stupid question at all - it appears that you simply have a stupid store. If it's cylindrical it's almost certainly a loin roast. All the cuts you mentioned are the so-called "high on the hog", expensive and much too lean pieces. Do you not have a meat counter with an actual human being behind it? Any halfway competent meat guy will know what a shoulder butt is. And don't let'em sell you a "fresh picnic", either - that's better than loin, but not what you want for luscious falling-apart meat.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Thanks all for the remedial pig help.

                  Yes, I have a store w/ a meat counter and a human behind it. But that "halfway competent" thing I'm not too sure about.

                  While I'm showing my ignorance, what's the difference between the big "pork loin" and the smaller "pork tenderloin" one sees at the meat counter?

                  Also, should I find the correct cut, will the fat more or less cook away (or at least melt into the vegetables) in the recipe? Apparently we're a little fat phobic around my house and I don't like to actually see or chew bits of fat. Thanks again.

                  1. re: danna

                    All I really know is that the larger loin is the center cut. The more tapered and even more tender tenderloin is nearby, but not exactly sure in what orientation. I personally like the flavor and texture of tenderloin better than the larger loin, but the loin is good for dinner parties and such.

                    If you use the shoulder butt for this porchetta prep, then the fat shouldn't bother you much assuming that you like full porky flavor and unctuous mouthfeel. The texture isn't anything like beef short ribs, but more supple. It's def. NOT low fat though, as the fat does get absorbed into the veggies. The marbling also stands out more after it's been refrigerated overnight, but "melts" again after being reheated.

                    You might want to consider the low and slow 8-10 hr. method posted recently since I think more fat would be coaxed out of the meat. You also don't have to roast w/ veggies if you don't want to.

                2. re: danna

                  The cylindrical cut you describe sounds like pork loin to me. Too lean of a cut for this prep. Pork shoulder/butt reminds me of beef chuck roast in appearance and comes from the same region of the animal. See link to pig chart.

                  Good for braising and stewing and what's most often used in the tastiest dishes like carnitas, pulled pork, etc. Has so much more flavor than any part of the loin, which can be good for other uses.

                  I don't think this cut should be too hard to find at a regular supermarket, but most ethnic markets should carry.


                  1. re: danna

                    I don't mean to sound un-p.c. but I most often find it at a grocery store that carries more affordable cuts of meat. With the popularity of lean pork the shoulder butt is sometimes hard to find as it is not in demand as much as pork loin. My little corner grocery carries it but the big glitzy supermarket near work doesn't.