Thursday, July 15, 2010

Porchetta, slow-roasted pork shoulder with Fennel Pollen, and a visit to Robert De Niro’s Locanda Verde

        Whenever I get called for Jury Duty, I’m always delighted to use the midday break to try out the neighborhood restaurants.  Criminal court means visits to Chinatown and what’s left of Little Italy.  But Civil Court is bang up against Tribeca, ever a hotbed of places I am dying to eat.  There you’ll find Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel on Greenwich St. (377 Greenwich St. Tel: 212 925-3797.)  The restaurant hasn’t yet become as famous as its owner, Robert De Niro, but if they keep serving the Porchetta sandwich that Chef Andrew Carmellini makes there, it very well may.

Chef Carmellini himself is one of my all-time favorites and I’ve followed him everywhere he’s been.  I loved what he did at the original A Voce on 26th St.   He does his own Italian food just brilliantly and this porchetta is all the proof you’ll need.   So imagine my great pleasure in finding La Cucina Italiana's mouth-watering article on the Capital of Porchetta, Lazio, but also contained a recipe for a “New York Edition” from chef Sara Jenkins who makes 30 lbs of the stuff at a go at her restaurant which is actually called “Porchetta” (110 East 7th Street, New York Tel: 212 777 2151  This dish is so worth doing.  Even though it cooks for six hours.  Even though you can’t really do this with ingredients straight from the supermarket. 

You need to enlist help from a butcher and order a boneless pork shoulder with the skin on.  (Mine cost 4.99 lb.) You also cannot make this without something called Wild Fennel pollen. Fortunately, I recently joined a Facebook group called "Fennel Friday Cooking Club" which hooked me onto Pollen Ranch which sells this magic powder.  When I say magic, I mean a mere dusting of this sweet anise flavoring adds remarkable flavor to everything it touches.  And if you enter the code Fennel Friday you get 10% off your purchase.  Their pricing is excellent. I'd scoped out Fennel Pollen before at a local cookshop and found it at $22.00.  
Not to be outdone, scandalously priced theirs at $30.00 a tin or way over what I paid for the pork itself!  I felt like a winner with Pollen Ranch's version which is hand-picked from the flowers of the Fennel plant and USDA certified organic.  Do not skip the fennel pollen in this dish! It is worth it just to open it and take a wonderful whiff of the intense anise aroma.  And oh what it does for the pork!  I served this as a summer dinner party menu with some simple parmesan smashed potatoes and a watermelon and tomato salad.  It went over extremely well. Here is the recipe:

Recipe for Porchetta, slow-roasted pork shoulder.
20 fresh sage leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only
3 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2  tablespoons wild fennel pollen (see above)
1 1/2  teaspoons medium-coarse sea salt
1 1/2  teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 (3 3/4- to 4-pound) boneless pork shoulder (with skin, not tied)
2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white or red wine 

Pre Heat oven to 250º.

Finely chop sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic together (you can do this by pulsing in a food processor or by hand). Place mixture in a small bowl, add fennel pollen, salt and pepper, and stir together well.

With a sharp knife, score pork skin in a crosshatch diamond pattern, making ⅛-inch deep cuts 1 inch apart. With a paring knife, make about 10 incisions (about 1/2 inch deep) all over the pork and stuff with about ⅓ of the herb mixture. Tie pork into a compact roast with kitchen twine, brush oil over skin and rub all over with remaining herb mixture.

Set pork skin side up in a roasting pan. Roast for 2 hours.

Pour wine over pork and baste with wine and accumulated juices. Continue roasting, basting once every half hour, until skin is well browned and the meat is spoon-tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more.

Remove from oven and let meat rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


  1. Call me the next time you are making this dish in the City, and I will be right over with my fork!

  2. Porchetta is not a fatning food althought many people think it is. In fact while it is being cooked the heat melts its fats which are gathered in special containers. It’s a cold dish, but it is also delicious hot and, unless it has no additives, it keeps its good taste if well preserved at least for two weeks.

  3. Oh My Gosh! I wanna sink a fork in so bad.