I have…strolled around a few markets in Tuscany and Umbria and can say porchetta is the best street food I know.
I grew up on ethnic foods, mostly Italian since the cook of the house—my mother—was Italian. My mother’s favorite cut of meat was the pork chop. On the other hand, I hated pork chops because my mother cooked them to death She told me she didn’t want us to get trichinosis—worms—from under-cooked pork. There was no chance of that because the poor chops were so tough by the time she was done with them that we could have soled our shoes with them.
There was one pork dish that she cooked that I liked, though—porchetta, an Italian pulled pork, if you will. Popular throughout the country, it originated in central Italy, but each region has its own version. Porchetta is so closely aligned to the cultural identity of the country that the government has named it a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (traditional agricultural-food product), a food that has cultural significance.
The original version consists of a whole, deboned and cleaned pig that the chef stuffs with a variety of spices and slow roasts over a fire so that the skin is crackling good. In Lazio (Rome), porchetta is a popular street food served in panini and on white pizza. In Umbria, the chefs use pork belly, stuff it with the pig’s cleaned entrails and spices, and roll and tie it before roasting. The chefs of Treviso butcher a pig that is one-year old, stuff it with wild fennel, salt, pepper, garlic, and white wine. In Abruzzo, the region whose people are credited with bringing porchetta to the States, the dish is simple. The deboned pig is rubbed with garlic, pepper, salt, and rosemary and slow-roasted for hours. At the weekly markets in Abruzzo, people line up to buy sandwiches (3 euro) from their favorite food truck.
My mother didn’t roast a whole pig, thank heaven. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t eat anything that stares at me. While my mom used the oven to cook her pork, I am more hands-off and use a slow cooker. Keep in mind that, like my mother and grandmother, I don’t measure anything. I’m giving you approximations, but you might want to adjust amounts to your taste. And, that said, you can also buy a jar of Tuscan seasoning (Costco has a good one.) and use it.
1-pork shoulder or fresh ham (I use 3-4 pounds and do not remove the fat.)
3 Tablespoons dried rosemary
3 Tablespoons dried fennel
1 teaspoon garlic powder (You can use fresh, and you can use more.)
1.5 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl and set aside. Score any fat on the top of the pork. Rub the mixture all over the pork and into the cut sections. Place the pork into the crockpot and cook on high for 5-6 hours or until the pork is tender and shreds easily.
• I have an allergy to garlic, so I don’t use fresh. If you like a strong garlic flavor, use freshly minced garlic in place of the powder, and use as much as you like.
• Some people put white wine and chicken broth in the cooker before placing the pork in there. I don’t as there is enough water in the pork to make a good jus.
You can serve this many different ways. As I mentioned above, porchetta sandwiches are popular street and market foods. We like the pork “naked” with roasted potatoes and vegetables. You can add barbecue sauce, throw it in pasta sauce, or serve it as taco meat.