Made a simplifed porchetta for New Year's Eve (while slightly woozy from mimosas), using a slab of pork belly, scored and seasoned with chilli flakes, garlic, lemon zest, fennel and black pepper. The whole slab is rolled and tied with string at intervals - don't be like me. In my inebriated state, I missed out on one knot and that end came undone during the roasting process. Still delicious though so all's good. I saved the pork fat that was rendered out to roast some potatoes until they were fragrant and golden, (steps coming soon) and it was the perfect use of those drippings!
This is based on a recipe from Seriouseats and I've linked the full article here. For now, let me talk you through how I made this crack-ly, delicious, burnished goodness. Looks like a real showstopper but the actual prep work takes a drunk person all of 10 minutes. The rest of the weight is pulled by your good friend, the oven. Minimal effort, maximum effect. Exactly the kind of recipe I can get down with.
First, take a slab of pork belly that you've procured from your butcher's. I used a 1.5kg slab but upsize accordingly.
Skin side: Season with salt. Score it at intervals vertically, cutting through the fat, but not touching the skin. You can also use a fork, wooden sticks, or any apparatus you desire to puncture the skin with holes. Flip it over to deal with the meat sode.
For the meat side, score it about half an inch deep diagonally one way, then the other. This allows the seasoning to penetrate the thick slab of meat better. Season with salt and black pepper.
In a mortar and pestle, I add in about a teaspoon of toasted fennel seeds and crush them. To that, toss in 5 cloves of garlic and smash until a paste forms. Tip this paste out and spread it as evenly as possible on top of your scored meat, making sure to go into the nooks and cranies. I then scatter over about a teaspoon of chilli flakes and grate over some lemon zest. Feel free to throw in whatever herbs you've got as well - I used rosemary here as I used them for the potatoes.
Then, you want to roll your pork belly into a tight little log, as best you can manage. Don't fret about this step. If you do it wrong, it's still gonna taste so right. hahahaha. Just have fun and don't worry about looking like a professional butcher!
This is kind of like making a swiss roll. Have some strings you've pre-cut nearby. Slot them underneath the pork belly log about an inch apart. Secure each string into a tight little knot. Once it's all done, let your little log of pork belly rest in the fridge overnight. This dries out the skin to allow it to crisp up the next day. The recipe on seriouseats calls for baking powder but I skipped this step.
On Baking day: Take your meat out of the fridge one hour before baking to let it come to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 140 degrees celcius. Pop your pork belly in for about 2 to 2.5 hours, until meat is juicy and tender.
To get that crispy pork skin, blast your oven/broiler to the highest temp. it can take. Plop the pork belly log back in to roast until it puffs up, crackles, and becomes a totally different animal... about 15 minutes or so, but trust your eyes and nose on this. You'll know when it's done.
Take it out, rest for about half an hour before slicing and serving. Enjoy!