It’s summertime, and for most Americans when we think about dinner, especially in the Midwest and more so in Kansas City, we think barbecue.
By JASPER J. MIRABILE JR.
Since today is Father’s Day, I want to share a BBQ story about a visit to Italy with my father and a trip to a famous Italian butcher who has now become a well-respected and good friend.
Now everyone has their own special recipe for barbecue handed down from generation to generation, some secret, some basic. Ask any gentleman you know and they will tell you they know their barbecue, but really, most men I know only cook on the grill and just a few items at that.
For this chef, it’s all about low and slow and I’m not talking just regular barbecue, I’m talking
Italian barbecue. I’m talking porchetta.
I can recall as a child traveling through Italy and enjoying a wonderful pork, sliced thin, filled with fresh herbs and sometimes fennel, with such great flavor that after one bite, I always hated to finish my sandwich knowing that the joy would soon end.
I remember a visit to Tuscany with my father and our Gruppo Ristoranti Italiani friends when I was much younger, at Antinori Vineyards. After a vineyard and winery tour with Mr. Antinori, we had the most memorable picnic of my lifetime.
As we were sitting in a garden area, I watched as four men walked across the vineyards with a roasted pig on the largest board I have ever seen. For this young chef, I was curious as can be. I immediately asked our host if that was our lunch, and he replied, “Yes. Wild Boar Porchetta.’”
I immediately turned to my father and I saw the biggest smile ever. In his words, we were going to “eat good today my son!”
Little did I know this was Mr. Antinori’s specialty but also a recipe and tradition passed down for centuries in this Italian family.
Within minutes, a family cook brought out a large carving knife and begin to slice not only the whole wild boar but also another piece of meat wrapped in pork belly. This meat on top look like what we call in Kansas City, burnt ends.
The gentleman told me that in Italy this is what everybody wants, the crackling outside of the pork. Wow, what flavor, so juicy and moist. Along with some fresh ciabatta bread and the drippings of the pork, this made for a wonderful lunch.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about the wonderful wine, but really, sipping on Antinori wine, sitting in the vineyard, enjoying a porchetta sandwich, life could not be any better.
When I returned home to Kansas City, I immediately started working on a recipe for porchetta. I prepared the original pork butts wrapped in pork belly with all of the seasoning. Actually, it was a lot of work, but well worth it. If I recall, that pork made many fine meals for friends and family.
Many years later, I traveled back to Tuscany and met the famous butcher Dario Cecchini from Panzano and again enjoyed some delicious pork at his butcher shop.
While there, I also was given some wonderful perfume of Tuscany which was a blend of fresh herbs and sea salt to be used on my own porchetta when I returned home. I spent the day with Dario, enjoying lunch at his restaurants, hanging around the famous butcher shop and picking up a few more recipes that Dario provided. The Tuscan Butcher also gave me a quick and easy version for porchetta, slow roasted, without the pork belly.
Again, I returned from Italy and immediately started preparing my new recipe for porchetta. It was so easy but I had to cook it slow. The aroma in my kitchen almost brought tears to my eyes thinking of my time spent in Italy with my father and my friend Dario.
That evening, after dinner, I never received so many compliments for one dish. Ha, little did they know that the cracklings and burnt ends on top of the porchetta were reserved for my brother, my chef and myself for a late night dinner.
So for this Father’s Day, here is a recipe for a somewhat easy porchetta, no pork belly needed, just a nice bone in pork butt. Just remember cook it low and slow and make sure you reserve the pan drippings to drizzle on top of the meat.
Oh, and don't forget, make sure you serve this with a little Chianti and enjoy like I did the first time I experienced this wonderful Italian barbecue.
Porchetta (Also known as Italian Barbecue)
2 teaspoon salt
Cracked pepper to taste
5-6 cloves crushed garlic
5 tablespoons fennel seeds
5-6 springs each finely chopped rosemary, sage and thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4-5 pounds bone in Boston pork butt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup Chianti
Place salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. With a sharp knife score skin of pork. Rub pork with 1/4 C olive oil. Spread salt and herbs mixture all over port, filling the cracks. Add 1 cup Chianti to a large roasting pan and add pork but. Bake 450 degrees uncovered for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Bake at 250 degrees until meat is tender and falling off of the bone, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Remove from oven and shred meat. Serve on fresh baked bread or atop soft polenta. Don’t forget the pan drippings.
Source: Jasper J. Mirabile Jr.