In Italy, the term porchetta refers to spit-roasting a deboned and stuffed baby pig seasoned with fennel, garlic, rosemary and lemon. In my kitchen, the term porchetta refers to oven-roasting any cut of pork flavored with the same heady aromatics.
The Italian recipe is authentic, complicated and greatly esteemed throughout the country. My recipe is inauthentic, genuinely easy and greatly esteemed in a small section of Brownstone Brooklyn.
This is the feed-a-crowd, party version of my counterfeit porchetta. It features a pork shoulder, which is the biggest chunk of pig one can reliably find in any supermarket. I prefer to use a bone-in shoulder, but boneless works, too. Either way, it’s brawny, earthy, run through with flavorful fat and, best of all, economical, which comes in handy when you need a lot of meat in one go.
Pork shoulder is also particularly unfussy to cook. Your aim here is tender, juicy meat underneath a crackling amber crust that is flecked with the garlicky green herb and fennel-scented paste. How to achieve this is a matter of some debate.
Some swear by braising the meat in liquid, then crisping the skin. Some start out roasting low and slow, then raise the heat at the end. Some brown the skin in oil on the stove, then roast. All of these methods work well. But I always return to what I think is the simplest and most convenient: Start the meat in a hot oven until the fat under the skin starts to render, then turn down the heat and forget about it all afternoon.
The exact timing will depend upon the shape of your roast, its temperature when it went into the oven and the type of pan you use. But don’t worry about making sure you pull the meat from the oven as your guests arrive. Pork shoulder roasts are forgiving. You can roast it earlier in the day, and let it sit covered at room temperature for a couple of hours. About 30 minutes before serving, crisp the skin in a 400-degree oven until it starts to glisten.
Then let your guests ooh and ahh before carving it. And don’t forget to save the bone for soup.
If you’re lucky enough to have any leftovers, they can be tossed with barbecue sauce or hot sauce and made into not very authentic pulled pork sandwiches for lunch the next day. It’s the most appropriate thing to do with leftover fake porchetta. Which is, after all, genuinely delicious.
Porchetta Pork Roast
1 (7- to 8-pound) bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder roast, or a 6- to 7-pound
boneless roast, fat trimmed to ¼-inch thickness
¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
5 garlic cloves, grated or mashed to a paste
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Score skin and fat all over pork, taking care not to cut down to the meat.
In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine fennel fronds, rosemary, sage, garlic, lemon zest, salt, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pour in oil. Pulse or mash until it forms a paste. Rub all over pork. If using a boneless roast, tie with kitchen string at 2-inch intervals. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove pork from refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before cooking. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer pork to a rimmed baking sheet and roast 35 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and cook an additional 2 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 180 degrees. (Bone-in roasts will take longer than boneless ones.)
Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 to 12 servings.