Recently someone told me that it is not DOG a man's best friend, it is pork. Although I still side with my pups, and kittens, I can't say I disagree.
Now, hoping that I will not completely sound like Homer Simpson, in the Tuscan kitchen, pork is king.
Prosciutto, Salame, Salsicce, Tenderloin, Loins, Noses and Feet, piglets and Ears.. and what is left would become testafredda, headcheese, as disgusting to see as delicious to eat...
Porchetta is the queen of central Italy street food, on market days the smell of garlic, rosemary, fennel and roasted pork gets everywhere, follows you home. And the best way to eat it is in a panino, with a generous glass of red wine.
Porchetta is a de-boned pig opened and washed carefully, then flavored with loads of fennel, garlic, coarse salt, pepper and rosemary, it is rolled on itself, head kept on, and slow roasted in a oven, traditionally a wooden one, but the recent and stricter european laws requires an steel one.
Like many other specialities, every little area declares to be the birth place of the porchetta, and every town swears on the best flavours of its own. Each one has "the real" porchetta.
I know I shouldn't eat it, and seriously I do not eat it often, but it is impossible not to love it when it is still tepid and the fat melts in the panino and you pair it with the most anonimous red wine coming from dubious farmer of the valley, of course always the best available.
In the years I owned my store in Cortona, right in front of my door there was the food trucks stationing.
Maybe 4 or 5. Cheese, Porchetta and cheeses, porchetta and soups or beans, porchetta cheeses and roasted chikens, and cheeses and more cheeses and fried fish, this food porn road would lead you to the nearby square where you would find the vegetable stalls.
Like an apology to that orgy of pork fat and fried foods.
When I was little, farmers and contadini would bring their chicken and their rabbits, alive, tied by the legs, to be sold, now this is not legal, but at the time it was.
I love the smell of oven roasted porchetta, although for 25 years I had all the trucks in front of my store, and even if eating nothing, I will go home stuffed by the smells and the yells of the vendors praising their cheese and bashing the other one's.
Comes to my mind, the super annoying guy that would sell the slow roasted chicken, yelling on top of his lungs "SUPER POLLO!!" His wasn't just a pollo (chicken) his chicken was SUPER! The first times a vision of a chicken flying in a blue and red cape would cause fits of laughter with my employees, it was a very good chicken, though.
The other vendor would yell that his was "a real cheese from Pienza" and the others would sell cheese made with plaster!
The next one would scream "Maiali belli e appassionati!" Literally "beautiful and passionate pigs!?!" meaning... who knows what.
It was like a show, each of them wanting to look tougher and more sarcastic than the others, but all really good people, and friends to one another.
All this right in front of my door... at times I'd come out looking at each of them with my meanest and most stifling look. They'll scream to each other "whatch out! The teacher is here!" And hush for...maybe 2 minutes, and then start again, all mornings, all saturdays...
I had fits of laughter in the shop, at times...
At times I wanted to beat them up with my broom.
Customers would crack up in laughs. All in all great days...
One of them one day brough out his violin, and just started to play it, at some point a Rom accordion player came out of nowhere, and the two improvised a tiny concert...
This recipe is a simple way to serve a pork tenderloin, flavorful and most of all, fast. Perfect if paired with polenta or beans in he winter, even more perfect if served with a cold potato salad, a simple tomato salad or a fresh green salad (always a salad, anyway) in the summer.
2 pork tenderloin about 500gr/1 pound each
Bacon or pancetta as many slices as the pork loin pieces
Pecorino Cheese finely shaved
A tablespoon of mustard
1/2 glass white wine
1/2 glass of broth
2 cloves of garlic
EVO, salt and pepper
Cut the loin in slices about 3 cm 1 1/4 inches thick, roll them with one slice of pancetta or bacon, add one leaf of sage and a small sprig of rosemary, tie with cooking string or close with thoopicks.
In a large enough pan, put the oil, add the garlic, when garlic starts to turn golden, add the peppercorn and all the meat in one layer.
Keep the flame medium high, turn the medallions after 4/5 min, when the sugar are caramelized, cook them for 4 minutes more. If you puncture one with a toothpick, there should be no juices coming out, you want them slightly pink inside, not raw.
When done, keep them beetween to plates to keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with white wine, add mustard and a couple of tablespoons of broth.
Adjust with salt and pepper.
Plate the meat, cover it with the shaved cheese and top with the sauce.
PS the two pictures of the street vendors come from La Nazione and from Scrumpydillicious the one of the medallions in the pan is from Karey Hintermeister, the musicians one is mine.