Why This Recipe Works
As a substitute for the traditional whole pig, we opt for easy-to-find pork butt (over pork belly or a pork belly–wrapped pork loin) since it cooked up evenly and offered the right balance of meat and fatty richness. To season and flavor the meat thoroughly and evenly, we cut slits in the meat every few inches; coated it with salt and an intensely flavored paste of garlic, rosemary, and fennel; and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. For quicker cooking and more presentable slices, we cut the roast into two pieces and tied each into a compact cylinder. We used a two-stage cooking method: First, we covered the roasting pan with foil, which trapped steam to cook the meat evenly and more quickly and also helped keep the meat moist. We then uncovered the pan and returned it to a 500-degree oven to brown and crisp the outer layer of the roast. For the best layer of crisp “skin” on the tops of the roasts, we cut a crosshatch in the fat cap and rubbed it with a mixture of salt and baking soda at the same time we applied the paste to help dry it out.