We closed early on Friday night the 23rd to all sit down to Christmas dinner together. Although we are often together, the whole crew sits down to dinner together once a year. The planning started a couple weeks out with me canvassing the crew about what they wanted to eat.
We all still had visions of last year's dinner dancing in our heads: ossobuco of pork, risotto milanese, and kick-ass collard greens braised with smoked turkey necks. You can see from last year's menu what we like to eat: hearty braised comfort food with no frou-frou. Keep your lobsters and caviar, bring on the braised meat.
Everyone except me would have been satisfied with the same menu as last year; I always want to do something different. This year, after much soul searching, it finally came to me while watching the Food Network; this would be the year for porchetta, that crackling piggy delight of Italian heritage. Add some gnocchi with pancetta and black truffles and a reprising of the braised collard greens and the menu was set.
Wild Boar-Stuffed Porchetta
Porchetta is a stuffed pork roast that probably originated in central Italy. Often you will see a whole pig stuffed and spit-roasted. Here we imitate that with pork belly that I prepped by butterflying it and curing it for 48 hours with ground fennel, ground coriander, salt, and sugar.
After rinsing the cured belly, I covered it with a wild boar forcemeat flavored with orange zest, black olive purée, ground fennel, and minced garlic. You see the belly here rolled and tied, ready for the oven, and then once it is cooked, all crispy and brown.
Potato Gnocchi with Black Truffles and Pancetta
I took this opportunity to show Tony and Travis how to make traditional potato gnocchi, without eggs. Anyone can add eggs and make gnocchi. It takes some practice to make gnocchi without eggs and the practice is worth it. With eggs, you get lumps. Without eggs, you get light pillows of goodness.
Tony, peeling the potatoes for the gnocchi. Travis in the background. We generally don't serve potatoes at the restaurant and when we do, they are not the russets that make the best gnocchi. You may notice the retail bag of tiny russets that I had to run out to the grocery store to fetch.
Travis, ricing the potatoes.
Gnocchi on the hoof, awaiting their turn in the pot of simmering water.
The finished product, mixed with butter and truffles and pancetta, topped with grated cheese, and baked.
Collard Greens Braised with Smoked Pork Neck