Porchetta with Blueberries and HazelnutsSteven Raichlen
From Food + Fire by Russ Faulk
Decadent pork belly is wrapped around pork loin with a unique filling of blueberries, juniper berries, hazelnuts, thyme and pancetta. Ultra-crispy browned skin is the hallmark of a good porchetta. The most flavorful way to achieve this is to roast it next to a wood fire.
Porchetta with Blueberries and Hazelnuts
- Yield: Serves 10 to 12
- Equipment: Butcher's string
- 1 8-pound piece of skin-on pork belly, about 50% lean
- 1 3-pound pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
- ¾ cup whole hazelnuts
- 6 ounces sliced pancetta
- ¾ cup dried blueberries
- ¾ ounce fresh thyme, leaves picked and stems discarded
- Freshly grated zest of 2 lemons
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Hazelnut oil
1: Lay out the pork belly on a sheet pan with the skin side up. Use the serrated end of a meat tenderizer to vigorously pound the skin all over. (I suggest 12 passes with the tenderizer.) This helps break down connective tissues and creates a crispier skin as the end result. Next, use the point of a paring knife to pierce the skin all over. Spacing should be roughly ¾ inch. Turn the pork belly over so that the skin side faces down. Score a 1-inch criss-cross pattern into the meat ½-inch deep. This will help the porchetta cook evenly. Season this side with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt for a “dry brine.” Season the loin roast with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt as well. Flip the pork belly back over again so the skin side is facing up. Refrigerate both the belly and the loin uncovered for 2 to 4 hours.
2: Toast the juniper berries in a skillet over medium heat. Reserve. Do the same with the hazelnuts. Cook the pancetta until crisp. Pour the fat from the pan into a measuring cup and reserve.
3: Combine the juniper berries, hazelnuts, blueberries, thyme, lemon zest and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Add hazelnut oil to the reserved pancetta fat to measure ¼ cup combined. Add this to the food processor and process into a dry, pesto-like texture. Chop the cooked pancetta by hand, then stir it into the rest of the filling.
4: Take the pork out of the refrigerator and flip the belly back over so that it’s skin-side-down. Place the loin on the belly and roll them up for a test fit. Trim one or both to adjust for a perfect roll. If possible, leave the pork belly about 2 inches longer than is required to fully wrap the loin. Trim away that last 2 inches of meat, leaving just the skin. You’ll use the flap of skin to seal up the wrap.
5: Once trimmed to size, spread the filling on top of the belly. Place the loin back on top of the belly and roll the roast back up. Tie securely with butcher’s string at 1 inch intervals. Let the roast sit at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking.
6: Prepare the grill for indirect roasting, preferably with a wood fire. You’ll be cooking initially with an air temperature of 500°F in the indirect zone, then lowering to 350°F.
7: Place the porchetta in the indirect zone of the grill, away from the fire. Roast with the grill lid closed at 500°F for 30 minutes. Rotate the porchetta 180 degrees at the 15-minute mark. Adjust the fire to reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue roasting for approximately 90 minutes more. Continue rotating the roast every 20 to 30 minutes for even cooking.
8: Remove the roast from the grill when the internal temperature of the loin registers 145°F. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Slice into ½-inch rounds to serve. A serrated knife is helpful for cutting through the crunchy skin.
The dry brining takes 2 to 4 hours. After assembling the porchetta, it should sit for 2 hours before going on the grill. Roasting time is 2 hours. Resting time after cooking is 30 minutes. Total time from start to finish is at least 6½ hours.