A Sandwich a Day: The Porchetta Panini from Emporio
In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
Is it just me, or does everybody and a half seem to be serving porchetta these days? Right across the street DiPalo Selects serves perfect pork by the pound (hint: get there between noon and 1 PM for your best shot at one hot out of the oven). Nearby, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria serves one of the fattiest versions around, while Eataly's got one that would be near perfect, if not for the oversized baguette it's served on. Heck, I even jumped into the porchetta game with Holiday recipes for All-Belly Porchetta and a Sous-Vide, 36-Hour, Deep-Fried version of the same.
All of this is to say that we've been eating a lot of porchetta around the city recently and have come to realize that a perfect porchetta sandwich—like all sandwiches with few ingredients—relies on three things: great bread in the right proportion, excellent porchetta, and thoughtful but minimal accompaniments. At Emporio, the rustic Italian bar and eatery a few blocks from Serious Eats World Headquarters, they come pretty close to the mark on all accounts.
The bread is foccacia-esque with a nice chewy, open crumb that gets compressed under the weight of a panini press. The crust is crunchy and substantial, but not so much that it squeezes the juicy filling out. Of all the versions of a porchetta sandwich I've had, I think the panini form might be the most compelling. The accompaniments are as minimal as they come: nothing but good olive oil with a salad on the side. A porchetta sandwich often does well with a light pickled vegetable joining it, or perhaps some thinly shaved fennel for crunch, but when completely naked, it lets you savor the drippiness of the roasted pork belly.
As for the porchetta itself? It's not the greatest in the city by a long shot. The flavor is good and it's well seasoned, but it was a bit under-roasted, leading to a slight rubbery quality. The slices also pull out of the sandwich as you bite through it; they don't cut clean. It's a minor quibble with an otherwise fine lunch, and at $9 for a sandwich and a salad, not a bad deal to boot.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.