Pork belly roasted on the spot with apple salad

Pull this recipe out of your hat when you really want to wow the crowds. Perfect for a special occasion!

“This is the perfect dish to serve a crowd, and makes a great centrepiece for a gathering of family and friends. I like to dry-age all meat, in particular pork belly, because it helps to make the skin crisp. Order the pork belly one week in advance and ask your butcher to dry-age it for you. This dish can be eaten hot or cold, and is delicious thinly sliced in a panino ( bread roll), “ says chef Alessandro Pavoni. 

Ingredients:

2 kg pork belly, skin on, 500 g fine salt
tablespoons salt flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 potato, scrubbed and cut in half ( optional)
Apple salad 2 red apples 4 large handfuls (about 4 cups) lamb’s ear lettuce
100 g Grana Padano, freshly shaved
chardonnay vinegar, for drizzling
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the pork on a tray, skin-side up, and cover the skin with fine salt. Refrigerate for 6 hours, then brush off the salt.
  2. To butterfly the pork, slice it widthways almost all the way through. Open it up and spread the salt flakes, pepper and rosemary over the flesh. Roll it up like a Swiss roll, as tightly as possible so that only the skin is showing on the outside, if possible. Loop a piece of kitchen twine lengthways around the centre of the roll and tie it, then turn the roll 90° and loop the twine around again. Tie it off, then tie around the circumference of the roll at 4 cm intervals. When you get to the end, go back the other way, placing the twine diagonally between each section.
  3. Thread a rotisserie fork (or half a potato), onto the barbecue spit, then thread the rolled pork on lengthways and finish with a rotisserie fork (or remaining half of the potato), to hold it firmly in place.
  4. Place over a cold barbecue, place a metal tray underneath the spit (a disposable aluminium one is fine), then turn the heat on to low. Cover and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes, checking occasionally that the roll is securely attached to the spit and browning evenly; if not, carefully reposition the pork on the spit. Increase the heat to medium, poke holes in the skin with a carving fork to release some of the fat (this will help crisp the skin), and cook for another 2 hours. Turn the heat off and leave, with the lid closed, for 30 minutes; the pork will continue to cook in the residual heat in this time.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the apple salad, thinly slice the apples and combine with the lettuce, Grana, a drizzle each of vinegar and oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Remove the twine from the pork, cut into 1 cm-thick slices and serve with the apple salad. Discard (or eat!) the potato.

Recipes from the book A Lombardian Cookbook by Alessandro Pavoni and Roberta Muir, with photography by Chris Chen, published by Lantern, RRP $59.99