Wood-Fired Porchetta with Blueberries and Hazelnuts
Ultra-crispy browned skin is the hallmark of a good porchetta, and the most flavorful way to achieve this is with a wood fire in a Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill. Luscious pork belly is wrapped around pork loin with an inspired filling of blueberries, juniper berries, hazelnuts, thyme and pancetta. The combination is a match made in heaven.
- An 8 pound piece of skin-on pork belly, about 50% lean
- A 3 pound pork loin roast
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
- ¾ cup whole hazelnuts
- ¾ cup dried blueberries
- 6 ounces sliced pancetta
- ¾ ounce fresh thyme, leaves picked and stems discarded
- Freshly-grated zest of 2 lemons
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Hazelnut oil
Notes: The dry brining takes 2 to 4 hours. After assembling the porchetta, it should sit for 2 hours before going on the grill. Roasting time is 2 hours. Resting time after cooking is 30 minutes.
Lay out the pork belly in a sheet pan with the skin side up. Use the serrated end of a meat tenderizer to vigorously pound the skin all over. This helps break down connective tissues and creates a crispier skin as the end result. I recommend at least 12 full passes across the entire surface of the skin with the tenderizer. Next, use the point of a paring knife to pierce through the skin all over. Spacing should be roughly ¾ inch. Turn the pork belly over so that the skin side faces down. Use the same paring knife to score a 1 inch criss-cross pattern into the meat ½ an inch deep. This will help the porchetta cook evenly. Season this side with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt for a “dry brine.” Season the loin roast with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt as well. Flip the pork belly back over again so the skin side is facing up. Refrigerate both the belly and the loin uncovered for 2 to 4 hours.
Begin preparing the filling by toasting the juniper berries in a skillet over medium heat. Reserve. Do the same with the hazelnuts. Cook the pancetta until crisp. Pour the fat from the pan into a measuring cup and reserve.
Combine the juniper berries, blueberries, hazelnuts, thyme, lemon zest and pepper in the work bowl of a food processer. Add hazelnut oil to the measuring cup with the reserved pancetta fat to measure ¼ cup combined. Add this to the food processor and process into a dry, pesto-like texture. Transfer to a bowl. Chop the cooked pancetta by hand, then stir it into the rest of the filling.
Take the pork out of the refrigerator, and flip the belly back over so that it’s skin-side-down. Place the loin on the belly and roll them up for a test fit. Trim one or both to adjust for a perfect roll. If possible, leave the pork belly about 2 inches longer than is required to fully wrap the loin. Trim away that last 2 inches of meat, leaving just the skin. You’ll use the flap of skin to seal up the wrap.
Once trimmed to size, spread the filling on top of the belly. Place the loin back on top of the belly and roll the roast back up. Tie securely with butcher’s string at 1 inch intervals.
Let the roast sit at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking.
Prepare the grill for indirect roasting. You’ll be cooking initially at 500°F in the indirect zone, then lowering to 350°F. To cook with a wood fire in the Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill, the technique is as follows:
- Select two split logs (oak is recommended) that fit easily in the Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer. Remove the far left or far right grill grate. Load the logs into the two channels of the drawer where the grill grate was removed. Fire up the ignition burner and the main burner below the wood on HIGH.
- Preheat the grill and start the wood burning for about 15 minutes with the grill hood open.
- Wearing protective gloves and using long grilling tongs, remove the burning wood from the channels and reorient across the front of the grilling drawer.
- You will be cooking with the wood fire as your primary heat source. Keep the ignition burner running the entire time. The single main burner will remain on HIGH for the 500°F portion of the cooking, and then turned OFF for the 350°F portion of the cooking. Add fresh wood chunks to the front fire occasionally as needed to maintain temperature.
- The meat will be placed on the grates toward the back of the grill, away from the active burners and the wood fire.
- Because the wood fire is located directly below the grill hood thermometer, it will read a higher temperature than where the meat is placed. We suggest placing an inexpensive oven thermometer on the grill grate next to the meat for a closer temperature reading.
Place the porchetta in the indirect zone of the grill, away from the wood fire. Roast with the hood closed at 500°F for 30 minutes. Rotate the porchetta 180 degrees at the 15 minute mark. Adjust the fire to reduce the temperature to 350°F, and continue roasting for approximately 90 minutes more. Continue rotating the roast every 20 to 30 minutes for even cooking.
Remove the roast from the grill when the internal temperature of the loin registers 145°F. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Slice into ½ inch rounds to serve. A serrated knife is helpful for cutting through the crunchy skin.