A swirl of crisp, golden skin and tender, garlicky meat. That's what makes a great porchetta.
To prepare it the traditional way, Italian cooks spit-roast a stuffed suckling pig (or roll up an herb-rubbed pork loin inside a pork belly then roast the package). The beauty of the porchetta is revealed when it's sliced, in each dreamy spiral of deeply flavored meat and fat.
At his little empire of Italian restaurants (Marea, Osteria Morini etc.), Michael White is Mr. Pasta. But in his downtime the chef makes potstickers and fried rice and generally obsesses over Asian food. Trading rosemary and thyme for cilantro and Thai chiles, he hit upon the idea for this spicy, newfangled, offbeat and totally irresistible porchetta (see the recipe).
It's a great weekend project to make for friends. And since we wanted to actually spend some time with them, sipping beer in the sun, not stuck in the kitchen, we did our version of White's showstopper on the grill, low and slow.
Start by seasoning the meat with a generous rub of toasted sweet brown spices—star anise, cinnamon and lip-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. Now roll it up with pounded garlic, herbs and chiles. The aromatic filling perfumes the meat as it cooks.
After about two and half hours, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature: When it hits 130, it's time to apply direct heat to crisp the skin. When it hits 140, heave that baby off the grill and try (try!) to let it rest for about ten minutes before carving away the first glorious slice.