Our local public library has a used-book store with an outstanding, ever changing, selection of cookbooks, usually in near-perfect condition and at extraordinarily low prices. I used to visit it at least once a week and buy one or two books each time I went. For the last couple of months, however, I’ve cut back on all my cookbook purchases primarily because of space. My shelves are literally full.
But a few weeks ago my husband, who works close to the library, came home one evening and presented me with, you guessed it, another find. It was a pristine copy of Michael Lomonaco’s Nightly Specials. “Where are we going to put it?” I asked. I’m sure that was not the response my better half expected, since he knew I had enjoyed the author’s cooking both at Windows on the World and more recently at Porterhouse Bar and Grill at the Time-Warner Center. “It only cost $2,” he replied. Just look through it and. . .”
Sometimes a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you hope. Such was the case this weekend when, inspired by a post by friend and expert food writer, Diane Darrow, about a stuffed pork-shoulder roast, I set out to make one. That our local Whole Foods was having a sale on pork butt motivated me even more to attempt to replicate Diane’s success. Attributing her recipe to one in an old issue of “Saveur,” she provided an illustrated account of her adaptation of the recipe capped with a photo of the finished roast. It looked so good.
Over the past holiday week, it’s been chilly here in San Diego and the cool weather made me long for a hardy winter dish. Looking through my cookbooks, I came upon a recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy for a pork ragù with farro Potenza style. The combination of pork shoulder simmered low and slow in a spicy tomato sauce and then combined with nutty farro sounded most appealing.
Fortunately, our local grocery store was having a great half-price sale on fresh bone-in pork shoulder roasts, which added even more appeal to the recipe. Even though I only needed two pounds of meat, I picked up a six-pound roast that would allow me to practice my butchering skills and provide me enough meat for a couple of meals.
Having moved from New York City to San Diego a little more than a year ago, I’m amazed by the frequent sales my local Ralph’s grocery has on meat: sales like 2 for 1 on chicken, 50% off on shell steak, and the one responsible for this post $1.99/pound on fresh pork shoulder.
When I saw a well cut four-and-a-half-pound shoulder roast for a $9 and change, I couldn’t resist. Although I’ve never made one before, I’ve often read how tasty they are especially when cooked low and slow.
Because my husband had been asking me for a porchetta-style roast and thinking that I could fulfill his request with this bargain pork shoulder, when I got home I started to look through Italian cookbooks for a recipe, but had little success. Perhaps this cut of meat isn’t popular in Italy. I then went online and found several recipes using pork shoulder that were based on this popular Italian street food.
A true porchetta, like those seen in Rome’s Piazza Navona during the holidays, is a gargantuan spectacle. Its made from the full carcass of a 100 pound pig and stuffed with its prepared entrails along with herbs like rosemary and sage, wild fennel, garlic, citrus, salt and pepper. Roasted whole, typically in huge bread ovens, it’s often served cold at street fairs in central Italy, especially in the regions of Umbria and Lazio
Scaled-down home versions of porchetta are typically made with a pork loin rolled into pork belly and seasoned with herbs and citrus. You can find a video of one being made here.
The roast I made yesterday, however, is a much simpler version that only approximates a true porchetta but nonetheless does deliver a lot of its intoxicatingly delicious flavors. I adapted my version from a New York Timesrecipe as well as one from Food and Wine.
There’s minimal preparation, but with the overnight marinating and more than four hours of cooking, it’s a two-day affair. Indeed, the only difficulty with this dish is waiting patiently for so long while the enticing aromas whet your appetite as the meat roasts.