Ok, kids…roll up your sleeves. Herein lies the preparation for one of the most involved dishes I’ve ever done outside of culinary school or a restaurant. There’s a lot of prep involved with this dish, but it’s a great example of getting what you pay for. The effort pays off big time.
We decided to throw a baby shower for our good friends Lorna Yee and Henry Lo. They’re big into food and have VERY strong opinions about it – especially pork, pork products, serving pork, writing about pork, thinking about pork…get the picture? For friends like this, we had the perfect excuse to roast a suckling pig. (And let’s face it…eating a baby anything for a baby shower is pretty fucking funny.) To be fair, it was an effort to get this guy into the double roasting pan, which is the exact size of the pullout oven rack. Next time, I'll go upscale and give it a go with a roasting box made especially for this. I've been eyeing these for a long time.
This recipe does require you to think ahead, as the brining and air-drying takes a couple of days. You can order the pig from a butcher—we needed a couple weeks of lead time for them to be able to procure it. If you’re in Seattle, Don and Joe’s at the Pike Place Market hooked us up.
The only other things on the list that were a little more difficult to find outside a normal grocery store were the foie gras, which you can find from specialty stores (Seattle Caviar Company is a great source) and the meat lacing needle. Meat lacing needles are easy to get around thanksgiving, but tend to be out of stock in the summer.
We filled the house and outside deck with friends, roasted this baby up and served it with roasted asparagus with a hazelnut aioli and pinot noir reduction; tartlettes with oven-roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, gruyere and balsamic-roasted onions; summer bean salad with lemon pesto and boquerone (marinated Spanish white anchovies) beignets; and roasted blue cheese-stuffed figs wrapped in pancetta (MORE PORK). I’ll post the recipes for these other dishes later.
Both the suckling pig and summer bean salad recipes come from Laurent Tourondel’s latest book. If you haven’t bought this book yet, DO IT. There isn’t a single recipe in the book that won’t make your mouth water. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this.
Special thanks to Jackie Baisa for making some beautiful photos included here while I was slaving over a hot stove!
Aromatic Stuffed Suckling Pig
Adapted from Fresh From the Market – Seasonal Cooking with Laurent Tourondel
Serves 8 – 12
5 Gallon Pot; Meat Lacing Needle
2 gallons water
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 garlic head, halved
½ bunch fresh thyme
24 fresh sage leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 Tbsp toasted fennel seeds
1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 suckling pig, 10 to 12 lbs, deboned (Note from Marc: We used a 22 lb pig and adjusted accordingly, adding another third to the stuffing recipes and adding a couple of hours to the cooking time)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
¼ cup pine nuts
1 ½ tsp fennel seeds
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 oz fresh porcini mushrooms, diced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
10 oz pancetta, finely diced
2 ½ lbs pork belly, ground
22 oz hot Italian sausage
15 oz foie gras, diced
¾ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 ½ cup grated Meadow Creek Grayson cheese (or another washed-rind, semi-soft, pungeant cow’s milk cheese, similar to a domestic Taleggio) (Note from Marc: We used an Italian Taleggio from the Italian deli and it was fantastic)
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup Armagnac
2 large egg whites
3 Tbsp fleur de sel
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
Brine the Pig:
Two days before you plan to serve this dish, prepare the brine. Combine the water, salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary, fennel seeds and peppercorns in a large pot with a capacity of at least 5 gallons. Bring the mixture to a summer, stirring until all ingredients are well combined. Remove from the heat and immerse the pot in an ice bath to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, add the pig, ensuring that it is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. (Note from Marc: Because we used a bigger pig, the pot wasn’t going to be possible. Instead we poured the cooled brine into a clean ice chest, added a lot of ice and the pig, and let it soak overnight in there, checking occasionally to ensure it was still very cold.)
Remove the pig from the brine and pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Place the pig on a rack set over a large rimmed baking pan and allow the pig to dry in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
Prepare the Stuffing:
Toast the pistachios, pine nuts, and fennel seeds in a small sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the porcini mushrooms and garlic and sauté until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a clean sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Sauté the pancetta in a small sauté pan over medium heat until crispy, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels; set aside to cool.
Mix the cooked pancetta with the pork belly, Italian sausage and foie gras in a large bowl until well combined. Add the toasted nuts and fennel seeds, sautéed porcini mushrooms, caramelized onions, parsley, chopped onion, sage and rosemary; mix until well combined. Add the cheese, wine, Armagnac, and egg whites and mix until well incorporated. Season to taste with the fleur de sel and black pepper.
Roast the Pig:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Pack the stuffing in the cavity of the pig.
Babe the deboned pig.
It's very important to know how to pack your pork.
Using a meat lacing needle, sew the openings of the pig together.
All dressed up with noplace to go. Except my oven.
Rub the entire pig with the olive oil and wrap the ears and the tail with aluminum foil. Spread the onions, carrots, and celery evenly in a roasting pan. Place the pig, belly side down, on top of the vegetables.
Roast for 45 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees Farenheit. Continue to roast until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the pig reads 155 to 160 degrees Farenheit, about 1 hour and 15 minutes more. (Note from Marc: With our 20 lb. porker, it took about 3 ½ to 4 hours total to roast this beast to temperature.) Let rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Using an electric serrated knife, slice the stuffed pig vertically into 1-inch-thick slices, beginning behind the shoulder and reserving he head for presentation. Serve immediately.
Slicing the Beast
Serving up Wave 1 of Pig and Stuffing. Don't fight over the tail, kids!
Our pork-grubbin parents-to-be, completely horrified by a friend's contribution of takeout chinese Almond Fried Chicken, General Tso and Crab Rangoon.