Porchetta Sandwich + Q&A with RoliRoti’s Thomas Odermatt
RoliRoti is a gourmet rotisserie truck that travels around to different farmers markets in the Bay Area every day of the week. They make a fine Roast Chicken (free range from Fulton Valley Farms), Rosemary Roasted Potatoes which are brilliantly cooked beneath the rotating spit, catching all the flavorful drippings from roasting meats above, and even Roasted Pork Knuckles on occasion. But the piÃ¨ce de résistance is the Porchetta.
Perfect, juicy, tender, fatty slices of slow roasted porchetta layered with crispy crackling, piled high on a Ciabatta roll with spicy greens, sweet onion marmalade and a sprinkle of black pepper and coarse sea salt, to be exact.
RoliRoti’s Porchetta Sandwich is legendary. It is perhaps the #1 dish we craved while we were away from San Francisco. It definitely was in the “reasons to move back” column when we were discussing our return to SF.
What makes it so insanely good? Every element of this sandwich has been thoughtfully considered and selected. First, the porchetta itself is a thing of beauty: pure-bred Berkshire pork loin seasoned with rosemary, sage, and garlic, wrapped in pork belly, rolled up, tied off, and slow-roasted on a spit for hours. The porchetta is piled high on an Acme Ciabatta roll, whose spongy insides are perfect for sopping up all that porky juiciness – if you’re nice, your sandwich maker will even mop the cutting board for you.
A generous handful of fresh curly cress (or wild arugula when curly cress is out of season) brings a light freshness and peppery bite to the otherwise heavy pork bomb of a sandwich. The fixings are simple, but perfect. A smear of sweet onion marmalade, some freshly ground black pepper, and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt does the trick. And let’s not forget about the best part – the crispy bits. If there was a way to double the amount of crispy skin to meat ratio produced from one porchetta, that would be it. Jackpot. Pure crack(ling) gold.
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve eaten my fair share of truly delicious things in my life. Hands down, this porchetta is one of them. It is a thing of beauty. I had to know more about it. I had to talk to Thomas Odermatt, the man behind this porcine masterpiece. The son of a Swiss metzgermeister, or master butcher, Thomas grew up in his family’s butcher shop in the Swiss Alps, where he learned his family’s secrets to succulent, tender rotisserie. After earning his masters degree in organic farming from ETH ZÃ¼rich, Thomas traveled to the US to continue his education at UC Berkeley. The entire Bay Area is thankful he did.
What’s the secret to your insanely good porchetta? Seriously. What makes it so juicy? So incredibly flavorful?
Well, this is a very complex question like the porchetta itself. We started to make the porchetta in our kitchen with my father’s advice –- it took us literally two years to roll out the perfect porchetta. I did not want to disappoint my customers with a mediocre product or just roll out a product quickly. I took my time to make a product like I remember doing in Switzerland in our butcher shop. One of my hardest part was to find a real good fatty pork with lots of intramuscular fat that we need to make a porchetta. I was talking to Alice Waters at the market and she told me to contact Patrick from Heritage -– I experimented and tasted many pigs until I found a pure-bred Berkshire pork that we use until today.
I believe the way we make porchetta is like 50 years back when my father got introduced to the porchetta technique from Italian immigrants working at our butcher shop. Everything is made by hand and the way we are doing it is with care to each individual cut of meat. I believe, and I might be wrong, it needs a very trained eye and skills to make a porchetta great –- no short cut allowed in the process during butchering. Simple the flavor comes from the best ingredients that marry into each other and complement the flavors — this is pork umami.
What inspired you to create the famous porchetta sandwich?
My background and family history. At RoliRoti we have only three products and I want to make them right and perfect. Each product is a little history of my upbringing, with my twist.
Where is your pork sourced from?
Heritage USA – this is the Ferrari amongst pork, what I call it.
Tell me about the fixings.
The fixings are simple ingredients. Onion marmalade is cooked for at least 12-15 hours on a very slow kettle – no oil is added, simple cooked down onions. I personally prefer the curly cress as a green in my sandwich as it brings more flavor to the upper mouth.
Any exciting plans for the new year?
2012 is a historic year for RoliRoti – we are turning 10. Ten years on the street with our gourmet mobile truck. I am planning to make a quarterly underground party and celebrating RoliRoti. The public will be invited to these parties. If you have any great ideas please let me know.
Well, a very happy birthday to you, RoliRoti! We will be on the lookout for some celebratory meat roasting coming our way.
RoliRoti Gourmet Rotisserie
Bay Area farmers market roving weekly schedule
Note: the porchetta is currently only available Thursdays (10:30 am-2:00 pm) and Saturdays (8:00 am-2:00 pm) at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and every first Friday (11:30 am-2:00 pm) of the month at the Blue Bottle in Oakland.