This week, I’ve had a love affair with pork. All parts of the pig – its loin, its shoulder, its butt.
It started on our drive home from Tofino, when we swung by Meat & Bread between ferry dock and highway. It’s worth the trip – or pilgrimage, even – for a porchetta sandwich with cracklings, served with salsa verde, a brilliant green slurry of fresh Italian parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil that acted as a bright, fresh, citrusy foil against the rich pork.
I became preoccupied with said porchetta, and so when I went for coffee with our new neighbours, Cafe Gravity in Inglewood, and the owner, a recent transplant from the corporate world who went to India, had an epiphany and decided to open a cafe, pulled up a chair and asked for menu advice, I suggested he might be able to easily roast pork in his teeny kitchen for real-food sandwiches.
A pork shoulder is a little more low-maintenance than a pork loin, which could be susceptible to drying out – pork shoulder needs only to be rubbed with flavour (a spice rub, garlic, chopped fresh herbs, oil, salt & pepper – any combination of these), seared to caramelize the exterior and then set to cook over low heat for 3 hours or more, its fat keeping it moist, and tough connective tissues breaking down with time and heat. Roast pork with salsa verde is a classic pairing, and so we gave it a go this past Friday, just to try – we roasted 5 shoulders and whizzed up salsa verde, and served up a free lunch to hungry hoards, alerted to our goings-on purely via Twitter. Andy put out a donation jar for a local charity, and a good time was had by all.
Note: This isn’t authentic porchetta, which has great cultural relevance in Italy – pork is deboned, layered with stuffing, fat, and skin then rolled, spitted, and roasted – and I’m sure it’s pretty ambrosial, in no small part because you’re eating it in Italy. But this version is just as heavenly, particularly when it’s finally warm enough to eat in flip-flops and not worry about drips. Roast pork, let me tell you, makes a pretty fab sandwich, loaded onto focaccia or a soft roll; but my fingers make the best delivery system – I recommend crispy bits picked straight from the cutting board, dripping with garlicky salsa verde.
Porchetta-style Roast Pork with Salsa Verde
adapted from two different issues of Bon Appétit
For the pork:
1 4-5 lb. boneless pork shoulder
canola or olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
spice rub of your choice, or a tablespoon or two each finely chopped fresh rosemary and sage
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper (if you aren’t using a salty rub)
On a cutting board, pat your pork dry with a paper towel, then drizzle with oil and rub all over to coat. Rub with garlic, then sprinkle with spice mixture or herbs, salt and pepper and rub them in too.
Preheat oven to 450°F, or preheat your grill to high. Put the pork in a roasting pan and slide it into the oven, or grill it all over, turning with tongs, until nicely golden on all sides. If you’re doing it in the oven, roast for 20-30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 300°F. If you grilled it, turn the oven on to 300°F, transfer the pork to a roasting pan or baking dish and put it in the oven.
Cover and roast for 3 1/2-4 hours, until very tender. If you think of it, take the lid off when you have about an hour left to go. Transfer pork to cutting board and let rest 15 minutes. Slice and serve with pan drippings or salsa verde.
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
1 small bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped (discard stems)
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse everything but the olive oil until well blended and chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube. Add a pinch of salt, and dribble on porchetta sandwiches.