Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Carnivorous Feast { A Porchetta and Lechon Picnic}

I edited this post on 12/26/2014 to embed a video I posted on Instagram.  Click on the video to hear proof of that crackling, crunchy, crispy skin! :)



A video posted by The Phenomenal Mama | Tina Ong (@thephenomenalmama) on




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Original post:

Today all the kids went back to school. The house is quiet again mid-morning, allowing me to take pleasure in all things good that the sound of silence brings. The melodious chirping of birds and the gentle swishing of tree branches are beautiful breaks from the stillness and quiet. I remember when my kids were younger and I would want to keep them peaceful and quiet for a few minutes, I would ask them to go with me for a listening walk. With their innocent and child-like sense of wonder, they would be amazed at the many unexpected sounds they hear when they choose to keep silent.

Anyhow, to celebrate the end of the school break, I threw a picnic for the kids on our rooftop. Their joy could not be contained, as even the weather cooperated... The high and feathery cirrus clouds covered the sun like a sheer curtain. The gentle breeze of the wind is enough to keep us cool; the occasional gusts blow our hair to our faces, gloriously reminding us that we are outdoors... that life is good, and there are many things to be thankful for.... Greasy smiles as wide as their bellies, oil-slicked hands busy with snatching each newly-sliced porchetta/lechon crust. I guess crispy, crackly, crunchy skin make table manners fly out the door!:)

The carnivorous feast of a picnic, in reality, was actually to kitchen-test several pork recipes I have accumulated in the past month. Porchetta, bagnet, lechon ... whatever you call it, they are all the same to me. Slabs of porcine heaven that tugs on the pit of my slightly bulging mummy-tummy. :)

To be able to make a comparison on which recipe is better, I decided to do a side by side comparison between the Italian porchetta and the Filipino lechon. The goal was to prepare and cook them in identical ways, seasoning with different herbs. Here is what I did:

First, I started with two identical slabs of porkloin with ribs removed and skin intact. Score the skin lightly, making sure to not cut through the meat. I find that this makes for easy and uniform slicing. But if you want a shiny and even skin on your pork, then skip scoring the skin. Makes no difference on the taste. Place them skin side down on a large baking pan and prepare the herbs.

For the porchetta, I placed onions and garlic, added a generous sprinkle of pan-roasted fennel seeds, added some dried bay-leaf, a couple of fresh sprigs of thyme. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.


For the lechon, I also started with the same amount of onions and garlic, and then added about 6 stalks of lemongrass with the bulb pounded, scattered 5 calamansi, sliced into two. The same liberal dash of salt and pepper. Roll the meat and secure with kitchen twine.


Put the pork slabs skin side up in the large baking pan rub with some salt and olive oil. Place in a preheated oven. Cook at 400 degrees F for the first 30 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F for about 3 more hours.


Get out of the kitchen. Now would be a very good time to do your nails, read a book, take a long nap. By the time you are done with all of those, you will come in to your kitchen, the heady smell of herbs and spices so fragrant and wonderfully comforting. You will open your oven door to find pork so tender that you can practically pull the meat off without cutting. And the skin? Hmmmm... a deep-golden caramel color that is crunchy, crackly, crispy, heavenly!

We ate them with pita bread and ciabatta. I placed sidings of with mustard greens, arugula, cheese slices and balsamic caramelized onions.

For the recipes:

Porchetta/Lechon (to make one)
whole slab of 1 to 1-1/2 kilo porkloin or pork belly, skin intact
1 onion, sliced
1/2 head of garlic, pounded, skin-on
salt and pepper

porchetta herbs:
1 tablespoon pan-roasted fennel seeds
2-3 dried bay-leaf
3-5 sprigs of thyme

lechon herbs:
4-6 stalks of lemon grass, bulb pounded
5 calamansi, sliced into 2

1. Score the skin lightly, making sure to not cut through the meat. I find that this makes for easy and uniform slicing. But if you want a shiny and even skin on your pork, then skip scoring the skin. Makes no difference on the taste. Place them skin side down on a large baking pan and prepare the herbs.
2. For the porchetta: place onions and garlic, fennel seeds, dried bay-leaf, thyme on the meat side of the meat. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.

For the lechon: place onions and garlic, lemon grass, calamansi on the meat side of the meat. Throw in a liberal dash of salt and pepper and roll up the meat and secure it with kitchen twine.

3. Put the pork slabs skin side up in the large baking pan rub with some salt and olive oil. Place in a preheated oven. Cook at 400 degrees F for the first 30 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F for about 3 more hours.

caramelized onion recipe:
2 onions, julienned
1/4 cup good quality baslamic vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 T fresh thyme leaves, (removed from the sprig)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

1. Heat a pan with a bit of olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and saute until they just begin to color, tossing frequently. 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Toss to combine. Cover, reduce the heat, and let cook for about 30-35 minutes, or until the onions have cooked down and caramelized deeply.
4. Take off heat. Add the thyme and toss to combine. Serve.



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