Porchetta Sandwiches

Porchetta Sandwiches
Juicy, roasted pork, arugula, peppers and herb spread on toasted ciabatta buns - a porchetta sandwich to dream about.
For many years, I had absolutely no interest in making porchetta at home. I had it in my head that  "authentic" porchetta required a whole hog, tied and roasted, much too much work (and meat) for me to attempt in my own kitchen. I had eaten porchetta out at restaurants, usually served as a slab of roasted pork, and figured that was where the dish belonged. Then I saw someone do porchetta as a simple roast for sandwiches and I was intrigued. Maybe it was time to think again about porchetta.

As I've gotten older (and more confident in the kitchen) I've learned to embrace culinary traditions, but I no longer have a desire to capture the elusive idea of authenticity. So when I set out to make my own porchetta sandwiches, I wanted to capture the essence of the thing, but have it make sense to me. I read a lot of recipes, I ate porchetta sandwiches everywhere I saw them, and I finally decided on a game plan. It was time to cook.

Boozy Epicure's Porchetta Sandwiches
This recipe serves a crowd. You can easily make 12 sandwiches and will probably have some leftover pork to spare. For this first attempt, I bought ciabatta buns, although any solid bread with an open crumb and nice crust will work, you just want to be able to soak up all the porky/herby juicy deliciousness without it making your bread all soggy.

4.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or buy a shoulder and bone it yourself, it's not hard if you've got a sharp knife. If you have your butcher debone the pork, ask them not to trim the fat, you need it to make the pork super juicy while it roasts)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp fennel seed
1 small bunch each: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano
5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled (depending on the size of the cloves, more like, half a bulb)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Water of white wine (1-2 cups total, used in 1/2 cup incremements)
Baby arugula (for topping sandwiches)
Sliced peppadew peppers (available in most olive bars, for topping sandwiches)
*Herb spread (see below)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 F. Put the olive oil, fennel seed and garlic in the bowl of a food processor, and start pulsing, you want to get the seeds broken down and the garlic pretty well pulverized, then you can add in your herbs and salt/pepper to taste. Process until you've got a thick, herby paste, then smear that all over the inside of your pork shoulder. Tie up the pork into a unified roast, then rub the outside with any leftover paste, and a little extra oil, salt and pepper. Place the whole thing on a rack in a roasting pan, add 1/2 cup of water or wine to the pan, and get the whole thing in the oven.
Oil, fennel and garlic. In case you were wondering, the garlic bulb I had was huge and I still gave it 6 cloves.

Herbs, ready to be added.
After processing and started spreading.

Roast for 2 hours then turn the heat down to 300 F and roast for 2 more hours (that's 4 hours total.) Throughout the cooking, if the bottom of the roasting pan looks dry, add another 1/2 cup of water or wine. You want the meat fully cooked and tender, and your house will smell like pork heaven. When it is done, don't go crazy and carve right into it, let it rest for about 30 minutes, then cut off the strings and start cutting the pork into sandwich-sized pieces. Do not throw away the pan juices, you'll use them to build the sandwiches.

Ready to roast.
Out of the oven and ready to rest.

Sliced and ready for sandwich building.
When you are ready to build sandwiches, start by cutting the ciabatta rolls in half then brushing the cut sides with pork drippings from the roasting pan before grilling or broiling/toasting the buns. Next, smear your herby spread (see below) on the bottom bun, layer your juicy, succulent pork, add the peppers and arugula, then top the sandwich and eat it, making sure you are equipped with several napkins. It's hog heaven.

*Herb Spread
I read many different versions of spreads and sauces for porchetta sandwiches. Some purists like just bread and pork, others used gremolatas, pestos, even mayonnaise or aiolis. I just took inspirations from all of those and made up my own. These measurements are just guidelines, I didn't strictly measure as I made it, you will want to taste and decide for yourself.

1 large handful flat leaf parsley (approx 1 cup, packed)
1 tblsp each, chopped: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 tbslp walnut oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
salt/pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until they make a uniform "spread"

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