THE months of November and December usually mean dinner parties one after the other. Whether you’re attending a potluck or hosting, there will be instances when you will need easy dishes that feed a lot and are sure hits. Cooking for a lot of people can be daunting enough. Cooking complicated dishes only adds to the stress and can keep you from being able to enjoy the festivities. Planning ahead and keeping things simple should make for relaxed parties where everyone enjoys, even the host.
My top two picks for potluck dishes, Porchetta and Lengua, both fit the bill of being simple to make, can be left alone for hours to cook, and are impressive on any dinner table. There is nothing worse than having to slave away in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. Both these dishes need hours of cooking, thus leaving you with enough time to do something else. They can also be kept warm or reheated just before serving or, better yet, cooked a day in advance and finished just before service.
A popular Italian version of roast pork, Porchetta is commonly made with large joints of the animal, sometimes even a whole side or even the whole pig. But a common cut used is the belly part, including the rib area, which I think is some of the best eating pork has on offer. Seasoned heavily with salt and pepper and with the addition of a selection of herbs, Porchetta is tied and roasted low and slow until the meat is meltingly tender and the skin, crispy. Italians serve it with bread, sandwich style, but I think as a centerpiece dish, it deserves more than being stuck between slices of bread.
- 4-6kg pork belly, rib bones removed
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 2 tbsp dried sage
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp whole fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried chili flakes
- 4 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- kitchen twine for tying
1 Wash and pat pork belly dry. Try to pick a piece that is square or rectangular and as uniformly thick as possible.
2 In case the belly is thick on one side, slice some meat off the thick side to make the belly even.
You can then stuff that piece back in when rolling.
3 Mix oregano, sage, fennel, garlic powder, pepper and chili flakes with half the salt.
4 Generously rub the meat side of the pork with the seasoning mix.
You can even make incisions on the meat side to make sure the seasoning gets well into the meat.
5 Roll the belly into a log shape and with some kitchen twine, tie tight loops around the belly to hold its shape.
6 Use remaining salt to rub on the skin side and together with the oil.
7 Preheat oven to the hottest it’ll go and place belly in for 30 minutes.
8 Lower the heat down to 160°C and continue roasting for 2.5 to three hours.
9 Once done, let the roast rest uncovered for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Image credits: Chef Dino Datu