Italians butchers are experts at preparing pork, and their specialty porchetta redefines the pig-eating experience. And my recipe delivers on the bold flavors of the pork with a Cajun kick of spice. I love how the thick layer of fat bathes the meat while roasting, and as we all know, fat delivers moisture and flavor on multiple levels. It is a beautiful thing.
So where exactly do you get a pork belly measuring 2 feet by 18 inches? There are a variety of butchers and smokehouse sources in Acadiana since most folks in these parts use it for making bacon or cubing it to fry up a batch of cracklins. Wherever you live, make friends with a butcher, and he’ll rig you up with whatever you need. Pork belly is readily available these days, especially in Asian and Latin groceries. In fact, I found mine at Costco right next to the baby back ribs. and when the light bulb went off, I was off to the races.
Make no mistake, this is not for dainty diners or novice eaters who aren’t willing to work for an amazing meat-eating experience. This is big pig: An 8 1/2 –pound pork belly stuffed, rolled, tied, and roasted to crispy perfection. I add the flavors of my Acadiana with a stuffing made with the Cajun trinity (onion, celery, and bell pepper), liver-infused rice dressing mix, Cajun seasoning, a heavy dose of garlic, fresh herbs from my garden, and the unmistakable fragrance of fresh fennel fronds, a traditional porchetta ingredient.
This pork roast will feed a hungry crowd so invite friends and neighbors. And another option is to cut it down the middle and freeze the other half for another occasion. However you choose, I can assure you that it will forever cement your credibility as pigmaster extraordinaire.
- 1 (8 ½-pound) whole boneless pork belly, fat and skin attached
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 6 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 container of Cajun rice dressing mix, optional
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- ¼ cup finely diced celery
- ¼ cup finely diced red or green bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup packed fresh sage leaves, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 large fennel bulb with fronds attached
- On a cutting board, lay out the pork belly fat-side down and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread Cajun seasoning and minced garlic evenly throughout the meat stopping 2 inches short of the edges.
- Empty the container of rice dressing into a strainer and press down with a large spatula to remove all moisture. Add the mixture evenly to the meat leaving a 2-inch edge.
- Sprinkle the onion, celery, and bell pepper evenly across the surface of the meat, and add the parsley, sage, and rosemary.
- Break the fronds off the fennel bulb and spread them across the center of the pork belly.
- Grab the outer edge of the meat and roll it up encasing the stuffing inside (you will lose some of the stuffing). Make sure to roll it tightly, and working from the end, tie the meat tightly every 2 inches with a double knot. When finished, neatly snip the ends of the twine.
- Place the pork on a rack set atop a large rimmed metal tray lined with aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator overnight to marinate and infuse the flavors into the meat.
- Preheat your oven to 325ºF.
- Place the porchetta into the oven on the center rack and add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the tray. Cook uncovered until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145ºF, 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the oven and cover with foil to rest for about 10 minutes. The carryover cooking will allow the interior temperature of the meat to increase about 10ºF to 155ºF.
- At this point, you can hold the porchetta until ready to finish once your guests arrive.
- When ready to serve, increase the temperature of the oven to 500ºF and continue cooking as the outer skin turns golden brown and begins to crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
- Check the internal temperature of the pork again and it should now register between 165ºF to 175ºF, an ideal temperature.
- Cover the porchetta with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
- Remove the string, cut the porchetta into thick slices, and serve with roasted potatoes basted with the pork belly pan drippings.
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