Consider this my early holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day) present to all of marketmanila.com’s readers across the globe. If you have steadfastly held the view that the only way for you to place a lechon on your holiday table is to order it from a commercial purveyor, or hire a lechonero to do one in your backyard, let me just go ahead and BURST THAT BUBBLE RIGHT NOW. Thousands of readers abroad have read my dozens of posts on lechon and I have received hundreds of comments or emails from around the world about Pinoys pining for lechon, and how they miss home so much around the holidays, and in particular, they want that lechon on their groaning holiday table. Well, you no longer have an excuse… This Christmas, whether you are in Dublin or Zurich, Oslo or Toronto, Dallas or New York, you too, can have a pretty decent lechon at home! You may be rolling your eyes just now, but trust me when I say this is just slightly more complicated that stuffing and roasting a turkey. Really. And while I struggled with the thought of saving this recipe for the mythical Marketman cookbook, the urge to share overwhelms… Surprise your family, friends and relatives; this year, replace your roast beef, roast turkey or goose with an oven roasted lechon de leche…
First, you need a cleaned roast suckling pig. Surprisingly, many specialty butchers can arrange this for you. In North America, you can order them for delivery apparently. So start with a roughly 9-10 pound cleaned suckling pig. Make sure it is fully defrosted. Wash it inside and out. Carefully dry with paper towels.
For this fusion lechon version that I made at home. I decided to use a stuffing of slow roasted garlic (three bulbs worth) and three slow-roasted onions. Salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, pureed truffles and olive oil.
The garlic was shmeared onto the walls of the cavity along with the roasted onions.
Sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme added a nice aroma to the meat. Sew up the cavity with kitchen twine. Desperate because I couldn’t find a needle at home, I even thought to use alligator clips (from my office desk) to close the stomach! But I eventually found a needle.
Baste the entire skin surface of the pig with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and place in a pre-heated 400F oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I basted with unsalted butter. Reduce heat to 375F. Cover tail and ears with foil if they are browning too fast. Then baste again after 30 minutes more. Then I left the lechon in the oven for a further hour, for a total cooking time of 2.5 hours. Cooking time will vary based on the size of your pig, the amount of stuffing you use, and the temperature of your oven. This is best done in a convection oven (with a fan) but I don’t have such an oven in Manila, so the pig in this photo is done in a typical large La Germania home oven.
You need a bit of muscle to remove and baste the pig. That’s really the toughest part of the whole recipe.
So listen to Marketman. The results were great for such minimal effort. Okay, so it wasn’t a Zubuchon :) and it wasn’t as good as a charcoal roasted version. But it was, convenience considered, pretty darned good. The skin was crisp and the meat juicy. Guests went quiet when they were eating, always a good sign. A more detailed recipe with more native stuffings will be written up for the mythical cookbook. But I encourage you all to give this a try this holiday season. Happy Holidays!