We hadn't had a proper house-warming since we moved in, which was a gradual process over several weeks. But what with that and Christmas coming, it did seem a good idea to throw a party. French, English, Dutch, Irish, Indian, ages ranging from single digits to low eighties, it was a good mix.
Many friends brought food as is the custom around here. The whole salmon I cooked almost disappeared. Peter chopped off its head so it would fit in the oven. I stuffed it with lemon, parsley and bay leaves, sloshed a lot of white wine over it before closing its foil overcoat, and baked it for an hour. An hour at 190°C. When that came out, in went the porchetta.
I've been wanting to make this ever since I first tasted it years ago in Florence, sliced off a huge roast and crammed into a bun. As well as selling whole pork legs to make into hams and sausages, the local supermarket has recently had pork loins on special. I bought one weighing a bit over three kilos and this is what I did:
Two days before you want to eat it, you remove all the string that the butcher has carefully tied it together with and slice the pork lengthwise so it opens like a book. Next, you make a paste of fennel seeds, rosemary and garlic, pounded together with a good glug of olive oil. Salt, pepper... That gets slathered inside the pork. Next, and this is the tricky part, you tie the pork back together into its original "log" shape. Cover it with foil, put it in the fridge and forget about it.
On the day you want to eat it (and remember this is best at room temperature) bring it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you mean to put it in the oven. Then bake it uncovered on a rack for an hour at 190° C. It seemed to me that it needed an unflinchingly bold sauce so I made a batch of salsa verde with parsley, cilantro, garlic and olive oil.
As Jamie Oliver would say: easy-peasy.
Now, sadly, I forgot to take photos so I can't show you how pretty the salmon looked once I'd skinned it and arrange a line of lemon slices along it, or how tempting the pork was, browned and with a handful of rosemary sprigs chucked in its general direction. Fortunately, Kate did take photos of the party in progress.