A couple of years ago while Mike and I were taking one of our rambling, random walks, we passed by a storefront in the midst of construction. The giant paper black and white window cover proclaimed: MEAT & BREAD coming soon. Meat!? Bread?! It could only mean one thing: sandwiches. We had to wait a couple of weeks before they actually opened their doors, but once they did, we were there.
I wasn’t just drawn to Meat & Bread as a sandwich shop. I also fell in love with their branding. The simple black and white text of their logo matches perfectly with their unfussy sandwich offerings. Meat and Bread kind of reminds me of the highly-thought out concept restaurants that you often see in London, or New York.
Stepping into Meat and Bread, you’ll be overwhelmed (in a good way) by the delicious smell of roasted pork. Their signature sandwich is porchetta, an Italian roast pork that’s moist, juicy and flavourful. Traditionally porchetta is the body of a whole pig that’s been deboned, stuffed and roasted. It’s a popular dish from the Lazio region of Italy and you can readily find it freshly-roasted and stuffed into panini on the streets of Rome.
Meat and Bread eschews the whole pig for a simpler roast of the loin and belly. Their meat is specially butchered so the loin and belly are still attached. It’s rubbed down with a salt rub, rolled up with herbs, slow roasted until cooked and then blasted with heat to crisp up the skin. The pork is thinly sliced and chopped to order, placed on a rectangular ciabatta roll and topped with a house made salsa verde sauce and bits of crunchy crackling.
The first time I had their porchetta sandwich I knew I had to give it a go at home. The friendly staff were happy to tell me how they made their porchetta while I was watching them slice the meat, but everything they told me flew out of my head after I tasted my sandwich. I remembered even less after the meat carving man gave me some bonus crackling after I finished my sandwich. So golden, so crunchy, so mind-numbingly good!
It’s been a few years since my first taste of porchetta, but I’ve finally recreated it at home. I had a bit of help from two videos: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Vancouver Magazine. There’s a tiny bit of discrepancy between the two videos, so I recreated from a combination of both.
When you’re making porchetta the most important ingredient is the pork. Meat and Bread’s pork is custom butchered so the loin is attached to the belly, but I purchased the loin and belly separately. I was hoping to create a mini porchetta, seeing as Mike and I would be the only ones eating it. (Generally I don’t serve untested recipes to anyone other than Mike and myself.) Instead of a whole loin, I went with a tenderloin.
Even though the tenderloin I chose was pretty small (about 1.5 pounds) when you wrap a whole piece of pork belly around it, it tends to get quite a bit bigger. Generally, they don’t have large slabs of pork belly hanging out in the cooler at the butcher shop. However, if you ask, (at least in my case at Whole Foods), they’ll be happy to whip out a whole side of pork belly and saw off a 12 inch by 12 inch square.
After you rub your pork with a bit of salt and some seasoning, you tie it up so that the tenderloin is snug as a bug inside a pork belly blanket. The whole thing goes into the fridge for a little while. Then into the oven it goes. This is one of the points where the two videos differed: in one they started off with high heat and finished on low and in the other vice versa. I went with the low and slow to cook and ended with high heat to crisp up the skin.
It’s a tiny bit time consuming, but if you’re ambitious, you should give this porchetta recipe a go. The porchetta’s fantastic on it’s own and even better in a sandwich Meat and Bread style. The pork is rich and juicy and the salsa verde herbaceous and light. The crispy pieces of crackling are the perfect crunchy counterpoint to the pillowy soft pork. You’ll find yourself eating way too many sandwiches. And when you’re done with the sandwiches, there’s a plethora of other recipes just begging for the addition of porchetta. Everything’s better with porchetta!
1/4 cup salt
2 teaspoons toasted fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seed, crushed
2 teaspoons chili flakes
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
pork tenderloin, around 3 inches in diameter, 1-2 pounds
12 inch slab of skin-on pork belly, skin lightly scored
Combine the ingredients for the salt rub in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the pork belly with the salt rub (you won’t need to use all of it). Sprinkle the herb rub and place the tenderloin in the centre of the belly. Tightly roll up the belly around the tenderloin and tie together with kitchen twine. Rub the skin generously with oil and a bit more of the salt rub. Place your porchetta in a dish, cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Heat the oven to 275F. Place the porchetta on a rack in a deep roasting pan. Lots of fat will be rendered out of the porchetta, so make sure your roasting pan is deep enough. Roast on the centre rack of the oven for 4 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 160F. Blast the heat up to 450 and continue to roast for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on the skin. You want the crackling golden brown and crispy, not burnt.
Remove from the oven, let rest for 15-20 minutes, slice and enjoy!
Porchetta Sandwich with Salsa Verde Recipe
2 ciabatta rolls
2 cups porchetta, still warm, thinly sliced and chopped
bit of crackling, roughly chopped
Salsa Verde Recipe
1 bunch parsley
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds ground
2 teaspoons toasted coriander ground
2 teaspoons chili flakes
2 cloves garlic
zest of 1 lemon
lemon juice from 2 lemons
Puree the salsa verde ingredients until smooth. Assemble the sandwiches by slicing the rolls lengthwise and topping with porchetta. Add a bit of crackling and a drizzle of salsa verde. Serve with dijon mustard and enjoy!