Read Time: 4 Minutes Subscribe & Share
One Cannot Live By Art Alone
I have made some notes from Liz DiGregorio’s two intriguing posts about visiting Florence, as I had no idea that it boasted a vibrant contemporary art scene. Her posts also made me hungry. Although Florence certainly has its food tourist traps (second to Venice) I have had some great meals, snacks and gelato on the street to go along with the necessary immersion in this incredibly art-dense city. Certainly Florentine cuisine made an impression on me. And I have enjoyed exploring some of its dishes by cooking a few Florentine recipes from cookbooks and websites dedicated to Italian cooking, such as Giallo Zafferano and La Cucina Italiana. Another member of this household cannot get beyond ordering Bistecca alla Fiorentina (which I don’t try to recreate because you can’t get Chianina beef in the US) nor did he share my happiness in dining on Trippa alla Fiorentina. But this dish is one we agree on, and I’ve made it many times. And of course the web is littered with variations on the basic recipe for Florentine Roast Pork.
Ironically, I’ve had the best luck with a recipe from an Australian book. The Food Of Italy is filled with remarkably spot-on and easy-to-accomplish regional recipes, and the photographs make you feel that you are right there. It was sent to me by the publishers in 2000, when La Cuisine was still in business, and all the Cuisinettes fell in love with it. Unfortunately, the publishers had thought that the distribution rights in the US had been cleared. Something went wrong in the negotiations, and we could not order the books for resale in the shop. It was a shame, as I probably have used this book as frequently as I have those from The River Cafe in London.
The Other White Meat
I would like to interject here that among the many disservices inflicted on us by our friendly industrial meat industry, one of the worst is their success in turning a once flavorful (with the help of porky layers of fat) meat into a dry and flavorless competitor to the dry and flavorless turkey breast division. You can pile up as many slices as you want in a pork deli sandwich, but it will still need to be slathered with some sort of “dressing” to make it go down. Compare that with the porchetta sandwiches in Tuscany.
We used to be happy with our pork until, sometime after the 1960s, we became concerned with weight gain and were advised to eat more chicken and fish (which many Americans, including someone near and dear to me, find hard to do). Poultry was considered leaner, healthier, less caloric. So when The National Pork Council saw its profit numbers dropping substantially (like in millions of dollars), they hired an advertising agency. The firm created a multi-pronged campaign (Superbowl, TV, celebrity chefs, recipe developers for magazines and newspapers) to market pork as just as lean as poultry. In addition, new feeds were introduced to pork producers, and leaner breeds were developed so that today, conventionally raised pork is 75% leaner than it was in the 1950s. The amount of pork sold has indeed risen into the billions of dollars, so much so that China, by way of its ownership of Smithfield, is now the largest conventional pork producer in the US.
Provisions And Prep
You have alternatives by choosing smaller and usually organic or regenerative pork farmers. Berkshire Pork is probably the best known of the Heritage breeds. D’Artagnan has some listed as does Heritage Foods – they list some tantalizing breeds that you can choose from, such as Red Wattle and Old Spot. Locally I use The Organic Butcher of Mclean for pork. This time I chose a three rib roast of pork and asked them specifically to leave that layer of fat …you know, just in case. I may ask them to add an extra layer the next time.
This florentine roast pork recipe has fennel cooked as a side dish with one of the requested onions. I slice the roasted onions that have been the rack for the pork and add them to the cooked fennel at the end. Don’t be shy about making deep cuts into the pork to insert the herb paste. The sauce is outstanding, and there is no finer side dish than the Italian style roast potatoes. Simply cut up into approximately peeled potatoes into one or two inch (2-4cm) cubes and cook them with a bay leaf, an onion and a carrot in a pot of salted water (I always start them in cold water). You want them to be only barely tender. Spread them out on a sheet pan – I use a Silpat as a less messy liner – and drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper, some chopped rosemary and thyme and bake in a preheated 350F (175C) oven until they are lightly golden with touches of brown. You can’t ask for a more heavenly meal.
- 3 large fennel bulbs or 6 small ones
- 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary - I use a tablespoon because I like a stronger rosemary flavor.
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 3lb (1.36kg) pork rib roast, chnned and skin removed, but with a layer of fat
- 3 white onions - not small ones
- 1/2 cup (118ml) olive oil
- 3/4 cup (177mo)dry white wine
- 1/3 cup (80ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup (237ml)chicken stock
- 3-4 tablespoons (44-50ml) heavy cream
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper for the herb paste
- Preheat your oven to 400F.(204C)
- Cut the green fronds from the tops of the fennel and chop 2 tablespoons of the fronds.
- Mix the chopped fennel fronds with the rosemary and crushed garlic and add plenty of fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Make deep incisions all over the top of the roast and in between the bones and rub this mixture into the slits and in between the pork bones
- Peel and cut two of the onions in half vertically, then place them in a square in your roasting pan - they will be the "rack" on which the pork roast rests.
- Place the roast on top of the onions and drizzle the olive oil on top and brush some on the sides.
- Place the roast in the oven for 30 minutes and then baste the pork with the pan juices.
- After basting, reduce the temperature to 350F (175C) and roast for another 30 minutes.
- Baste and lightly salt the surface of the pork.
- Pour in half the white wine and continue to roast for another 30-45 minutes, basting once or twice - I check doneness with a thermometer until it reaches 145F, but i usually remove at 150-155F.
- While the pork is roasting, remove the tough outer layers of the fennel and discard.
- Slice the bulbs vertically into 1/2 inch sections and place them in a large saucepan.
- Thinly slice the remaining onion and add to the saucepan with the extra virgin olive oil and some salt.
- Add enough water to cover, put the lid on and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the fennel is creamy and soft and almost all the liquid has evaporated - you may have to add more liquid.
- Remove the pork from the pan and leave to rest in a warm area.
- Spoon off the excess fat from the pan and discard the onions- I taste one and then usually add these halves (once sliced) in with the fennel.
- Place the roasting pan over high heat on your stove and stir in the remaining wine to deglaze.
- Add the stock and boil until the sauce has thickened to your liking.
- Remove from heat, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.
- slice the pork and serve on the fennel with the sauce.
- I ask to have the roast trussed and if the fat has been trimmed, request that a layer of fat be placed on top and then trussed.
- On the salt and pepper, I put in about 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt and a bit less for the pepper.
- Grind them together with the herbs and garlic in a mortar you can add a bit of olive oil to the paste
- Two thoughts on equipment: invest in a good digital instant reading thermometer - I am a devoted fan of Thermapen (Shop Thermoworks).
- The investment in a good roasting pan is money well spent: your drippings won't get burnt, it can be used for cakes, lasagne, slab pies, sheet pan meals. (I suggest the Affinity from de Buyer)
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.