Warning: “Porkographic” Food Content
I love the warm familiarity of Thanksgiving - turkey, yams, creamed mushrooms, gelatinous cranberry sauce, and Grandma’s stuffing with liver - a menu for olfactory nirvana! This year, my grandmother is passing the Thanksgiving torch to me. According to Grandma, this “will be a most interesting Thanksgiving,” because I’ve elected to transform Turkey Day into “Porkey” Day.
The gratuitous, free turkey will still be in the oven (which is why the “e” is retained in “Porkey”), but something else will be cooking outside. My well-documented love for all things pork has worked its way into our most traditional holiday, and I will be roasting a pig!
It’s a fact - pork fat rules. Over the summer I attended a Cuban pig roast and fell swooning over crisp, golden, shimmering, skin and succulent meat; in a word: toothsome. From that date on, it became my goal to roast my very own pig.
I contacted my partner in pork, Rob Nicolosi at Nicolosi Foods in Union City for a 30 -35-pound commodity pig.
Lou Palma, our local pork curing extraordinare generously allowed me to borrow – and assemble - his brand new Caja China roasting box. Cooking in a Caja China is quite different than any method I’ve attempted before. With the Caja China, the pig is fit flat into a rack and placed inside a wooden box that is lined with aluminum sheeting. Charcoals are then placed on the top of box, lit and spread evenly. The pig cooks radiantly from the top down.
How will the pig be prepped? My friend, Mario Hernandez, who grew up roasting pigs with his grandfather, was kind enough to share his grandfather’s recipe and method with me. Here’s the rub and the marinade:
- 1 tablespoon of salt for every 3 lbs of pig (not part of the marinade, but rather rubbed all over the "outside" of the pig - skin, legs, feet, face, ears, etc.) as a preservative, and to help the skin crisp up. Don't use the marinade on the skin, or it won't crisp up.
- mash 1 head of garlic for every 10 lbs of pig;
- add a couple tablespoons of black pepper;
- add some Spanish Olive Oil;
- add some Naranja Agria (sour orange), or the juice of 2 limes and one orange;
- add some oregano;
- add salt to taste.
I could taste the skin now! Of course, I’ll be preparing the appropriate side dishes as well, including, but not limited to, black beans and rice. Will you be bucking tradition and tossing the Turkey? Or do abide by the bird? Or fly with the flock?