Monday, October 3, 2011
Lechon sa Hurno (Oven Roasted Pork) with Lechon Sauce (Roast Pork Sauce)
Lechon (whole roast pig) is a staple to any FIlipino gathering. Rarely can you find a huge gathering without this dish. A whole pig is usually "skewered" using a long, whole trunk of bamboo that is big and strong enough to hold an entire pig then roasted over open fire for hours while constantly turning the whole pig to ensure that it is cooked evenly and prevent overcooking/burning one side. The whole pig is roasted until the skin becomes crispy. Traditionally, the pig is stuffed with a mixture of lemon grass and tamarind leaves and the outside is basted with a mixture of oil and atsuete (annatto) to give it its golden color. This dish is served with lechon sauce and eaten with rice. Leftovers, if any, is then cooked in a dish called lechon paksiw (roast pork stewed in vinegar) which taste just as good as the lechon.
I remember back when I was young, lechon making is a whole-morning affair which starts in the wee hours - I'd say around 3 in the morning where butchers come and kill the pig. The pig is then cleaned, stuffed, skewered, and then roasted. This preparation is necessary so that the roast pork will be ready to serve by lunch time. The cooking process is a treat in itself because it is exciting to see a pale, whole pig turn into golden color. A nice lechon should have a nice balance between the fat content and meat. A lot of people actually prefer the crispy skin over the meat but I think the meat taste better. I can only eat a small amount of the skin whereas I can eat a whole lot of the meat (hehehe). The most popular parts are the ears and the tail because they are really crispy and crunchy...yummmmmyyy...
Since it is impossible to cook a whole pig in an oven, The next best thing is lechon sa hurno (Oven roasted pork). Actually, I take that back, it is possible to roast a whole piglet in the oven which is another Filipino delicacy known as lechon de leche but finding a whole piglet here in the States is near impossible. Anyways, in lechon sa hurno, pork (usually pork belly with ribs) is roasted in the oven for an hour or more depending on the size, basted with a mixture of annatto and oil until the skin turn golden and crispy. You also have to make sure that the flesh is cooked through. Generally, I would cook a 2 1/2 lb pork belly for an hour and a half at 350F then bump up the heat to 400 to 450F for 20 to 30 minutes until the skin is crispy.
2 1/2 lbs pork belly with ribs
3 stalks of lemon grass
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
sea salt, to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp annatto extract
1. Mix ingredients for basting sauce and set aside.
2. Make shallow diagonal cuts on the pork belly skin. Sprinkle salt all over the pork.
3. Line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil. Note: This will save you the work of having to clean your oven when you are done cooking.
4. Cover a large baking pan with several layers of aluminum foil (Again, to save you from having to scrub it later) then add enough water so that it comes up halfway. Place onions, lemon grass, and garlic.
5. Place the baking pan at the aluminum foil-lined bottom of your oven.
6. Preheat oven to 350F for 15 minutes.
7. With the oven rack in the middle, place the slab of pork directly to it and over the baking pan. NOTE: The baking pan will catch any dripping and the water in the pan will help keep your pork moist while it is cooking. Be careful though not to burn yourself when placing the pork on the oven rack.
8. Baste pork with the oil-annatto mixture every 20-30 minutes. Cook pork for about 1 1/2 hours.
9. At teh end of the 1 1/2 hours, turn up the heat to 400F to 450F to help crisp up the skin. Cook for about 20-30 minutes or until skin is crispy.
Lechon Sauce (Oven Roasted Pork Sauce)
adapted from The Philippine Cookbook by Reynaldo Aguinaldo
1/2 pound pork liver
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Puree liver in a blender or food processor.
2. Heat pot over medium heat, add oil then saute onion and garlic until transluscent and fragrant but be careful not to burn.
3. Add pureed liver and saute until it turn slightly brownish in color then add the rest of the ingredients.
4. Simmer mixture for about 15 to 20 minutes then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Let it cool before serving.
Alternatively, you can purchase a ready made lechon sauce which is often marketted as sarsa ng lechon (Lechon Sauce). The best brand, in my opinion and by far the most popular, is Sarsa ni Mang Tomas which is readily available at most Filipino markets.