A Porkken Christmas

I’m posting this on Christmas Day, but I hope that you aren’t reading this on Christmas Day. You should actually be spending time with your family and loved ones instead of eating vicariously through me. Unless you’re lonely, then I hope that reading my Christmas experience gives you some holiday comfort.

The big reveal right away…this is a “Porkken”:

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It’s a deboned chicken with stuffing, wrapped inside of a butterflied pork loin (including the baby back ribs), all wrapped in bacon. You already know Turducken, so please meet Porkken. Now read on for the story of how this all happened.

Xmas playlist time! NO Christmas music”

A few weeks before Xmas, I saw on the Killarney Market Facebook page that they had this new creation for sale called a “Porkken”. I told Wicca that I’d love to try it, and that it would be easy to cook. Fast-forward a few days to a family dim sum where my Aunt pressured us into hosting family Xmas dinner this year. So in that moment, it was decided that I’d no longer be the deadbeat son and open up our place to host our family and cook a Porkken!

Now, Porkken is actually super-easy to cook cuz it comes all pre-made. You just pop it into the oven and ~3 hours later, you have Porkken! To make it extra special, I had to do something from scratch — something that had my heart and soul in it…

Makin’ Gravy

GRAVY! People loooooove gravy! But packet gravy is like salt on a wound. I couldn’t do that to my family. So here goes…

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Since the Porkken contains pork and chicken, I thought I’d use chicken bones…

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…and pork bones.

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Ah heck, why not some beef bones too? They were all sitting next to each other at the market and I couldn’t resist putting three animals into this gravy. BTW, those pork bones are the same ones that I buy to make Korean gamjatang. Usually the bones are actually from the back and neck, but any pork bones with meat on them are great for gamjatang.

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Got the meat component sorted out, now for the aromatics! Celery, carrots, leeks and onions.

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Chopped up roughly. It’s all gonna disintegrate anyways, so no need to be precise.

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Plop the bones on top and roast it in a hot oven. I think I did 475°F…

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Partway through roasting. Let’s get a bit more colour on it.

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Roasting done. Now just throw it all into a big pot and add water.

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I did a gentle boil for about 3 hours.

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The liquid started taking on that gravy colour. I could see all these suspended solids and goodness leeching into the broth.

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After a somewhat grueling step of mashing up all the softened veggies and straining out all the meat and bones, I ended up with liquid gold. I actually did all this a couple days beforehand, so I was able to keep this in the fridge until the big day where I scraped off the congealed fat, then did a round of reducing, seasoning and thickening. In retrospect, I probably could’ve reduced it by another third to get it more intense, thus get away with using less salt. Only other seasoning was black pepper. I thickened it using the Chinese method of cornstarch slurry. Quick, easy, and I’ve never had lumps using this method, which is just cornstarch mixed with cold water, then added to boiling gravy, stirring the whole time. No measurements, just go by what you see and what consistency you want in the final product.

Accoutrements

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I’m big on beer, but only a few people in my family drink so I thought I’d offer a hipster non-alcoholic alternative. These are syrups that you mix with club soda or sparkling water.

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The directions say 2 tbsp per 8oz of water, but I’d say that was the MINIMUM you need to get something that tastes good. Not everyone enjoyed these, cuz the flavour is…different than what we know as soda pop today. The root beer one has a medicinal/sarsaparilla kick to it, which kids might be freaked out about nowadays. I got a muddy overtone from the cherry cola one but still enjoyed it. The aroma is great.

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I was really impressed by the hummus from Jamjar, so for our veggie platter I thought I’d get a big 16oz jar of hummus and also try out their labneh. Labneh is strained yogurt, this version has mint.

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People always wonder what the dip is, so I did up some little signs. They were mostly for me, as no one in my family really gets my sense of humour.

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The Simpsons actually has a lot of foodie-type jokes, even from way back to this early episode from Season Four in 1992!

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Rainbow carrots for our veggie platter. So much eye appeal! Tasty too. Seriously. Dipped in the labneh…woooow.

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We hate green peppers.

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Roasting one of two garlic heads for our garlic mashed potatoes.

Vegetarian Curry

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We have a near-vegan in the family, so Wicca thought up a nice way to feed them. The challenge was to build flavour without using any animal products. We can still use all the big aromatics we use in regular curry, like lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, lime leaf, palm sugar, etc. We used our favourite Malaysian curry powder.

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Roasted squash, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, eggplant and tofu puffs.

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In addition to salt, we used Thai soybean paste and Chau Veggie Express‘ Vegan Fish Sauce.

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We were really impressed with the flavour in this sauce. Just add a bit of fresh squeezed lime and it’s a great sauce or dip. You really wouldn’t miss the fish sauce. It doesn’t taste weak or watery at all.

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The finished product. Spoon over hot rice! Hot damn!

Porkin’ A Porkken

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So I had to pre-order the Porkken from Killarney Market. This is Rick, the friendly butcher. Just tell him how many people you need to feed and he’ll do up a Porkken for you. The cost is roughly $8/lb. Definitely cheaper to go with just a turkey or a roast, but there’s a ton of labour involved so I think it’s worth it to do this at least once a year for the people that you love! Rick’s definitely proud of his work and I love buying from people like that!

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Mine was about a third larger than the “standard” Porkken, so I had to increase the cook time a bit.

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I said I need to feed 15 people, but I actually miscounted and needed to feed 17. But it still worked out ok!

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What a gorgeous sight! I put a layer of sliced onions underneath the Porkken.

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First stage of the cooking is done under foil. I also stuffed foil on the sides to simulate a smaller roasting vessel.

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After two hours of cooking, I removed the foil for the last 90 minutes of cooking.

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After ~3 hours of cooking.

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Almost there. Need to hit 158°F.

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After resting for an hour (covered with foil), it’s ready to slice ‘n serve!

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Twine removed. Baaaacon.

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I removed the rack of ribs from the bottom. I think everyone pretty much got to have a rib to themselves. Those black bits stuck to the ends of the rib bones are actually super-carmelized onions that were layered underneath the Porkken.

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Not that hard to slice and keep together!

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Everyone was happy at how juicy it came out. I’d totally do this again!

Party Time

Soundtrack refill:

“I’m giving you a nightcall…to tell you how I feel.”

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For that special touch, I did up menus for the night. Click if you wanna see it close-up.

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The surprise hit beer of the night was the Brassneck Ginger Belle. It’s malt-forward, with a bit of sweetness and a gentle ginger background…just enough so you know it’s there. People who I thought would’ve gone for something lighter actually enjoyed it. Not many people were down for the One Trick Pony IPA though…a big hoppy strong 9% beer that’s not to everyone’s taste. I actually couldn’t get the Ten Times Ten Pale Ale that I printed on the menu and got Employee of the Month Experimental Pale Ale instead, which disappeared super-fast cuz of it’s chuggable quality.

As I mentioned before, the Make-Your-Own sodas didn’t go over as well as I thought they would. It wasn’t until after most people left that I had time to sit back and try some myself and discovered that you really need to pour in lots more syrup than what’s recommended on the label to get something tasty.

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Veggie platter and dip station. Hummus on the left, labneh (strained yogurt with mint) on the right. To the left of the hummus is taftoon, Persian flatbread that’s sorta like a wet cracker. I love it.

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Really thick, almost a cream cheese consistency. Just a hint of mint. I thought it might be overpowering and gross, but that wasn’t the case at all. It made me dance on the spot while chomping on veggies and flatbread. So glad I bought that 10″ subwoofer.

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Love those rainbow carrots! Easy way to get your veggies is by making it colourful! Hah, we don’t have kids though, so I may be talking shit.

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Nuts from Ayoub’s. Ayoub’s is a really great source for high quality nuts. Maybe a bit pricey but the quality is way up there. Here we’ve got Spicy Mixed Nuts, Lime & Pepper Mixed Nuts, and Lime & Saffron “Premium” Pistachios. The pistachios were $13/lb and the mixed nuts were $14/lb, to give you an idea. Lots of people were getting gift baskets when we were shopping there a few days prior. My work office got one of their gift baskets last year and it was so good. Really unique and special.

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Persian honey nuts, also from Ayoub’s. Kinda meh. Nuts. Coated in honey. That’s it.

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Can’t have a party without chips! Or in this case, crisps! I got these from Organic Acres on Main St. AFAIK I’ve only seen Mackie’s of Scotland chips here. The cool thing about Mackie’s is that they use a lot of different potato varieties for their crisps — varieties that taste different than the ones used for typical North American chips.

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This one uses “Markies”.

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And here’s what the Aberdeen Angus Steak flavour looks like.

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Scotch Bonnet Chilli Pepper.

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This one uses “Lady Claire”.

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They actually weren’t that hot at all. Quite mild, in fact. Really pleasing potato flavour.

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Wicca’s favourite, Mature Cheddar & Onion. She doesn’t like cheese and absolutely HATES onion,  but for some strange unfathomable reason loves this flavour. I try not to delve. Just accept.

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“Lady Rosetta”.

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I like how the Mackie’s crisps are cut slightly thicker than say Lay’s chips. Really enhances the potatoey flavour. All the Mackie’s flavours are more subtle than the “extreme” North American chip flavours. Dare I say more “natural” tasting? It really lets you enjoy the taste of potato instead of merely a crispy vehicle for chemically enhanced flavourings…although there’s a time and place for that too! 😉

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I had to pick up a bottle of Tofino Brewing Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter to share with some budding beer drinkers in my family. Lots of coffee…perhaps too much? A good beer but the coffee get’s a bit too much towards the end of the glass. As far as porters go, nothing can touch Four Winds Oat Porter right now.

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Everyone got proper glassware. Thank god none of it got broken!

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Some wise-ass brought these dried ghost chilies from Granville Island and somehow coaxed someone into eating one whole. Really ruined their night but at least they have an interesting story to tell now.

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Rustic roasted garlic mash with skins. Sometimes you like a smooth mash, and sometimes you like something chunky!

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The Porkken sliced. Little baby back riblet at the bottom, with super carmelized onions beside it. If you like carmelized onions, you would’ve loved these onions. Looks burnt but absolutely was not, I swear 🙂

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Porkken with my multi-bone gravy.

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Ahhhh, finally a chance to sit and enjoy dinner!

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Moist. Tender. Pork and chicken taste good together! The stuffing was seasoned well…not overpowered by any herbs or saltiness. Bacon added a nice little accent. Gravy is a MUST! The cooking juices from the Porkken looked a little too dark, plus with the hectic environment, I didn’t have time to strain or separate the juices to incorporate into the gravy, so good thing I made gravy ahead of time!

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Just a bit left over for us to enjoy without the craziness 😉

Dessert

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Pie one of two. This one from The Pie Shoppe in Chinatown.

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Ah well, you can’t win ’em all…

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Classic Apple.

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I warmed up the pie in a 275°F oven for ~15 minutes. Served with Breyers vanilla ice cream. I’m drinking the Tofino Coffee Porter with this pie, which actually goes quite well. The apple filling was a touch tart but the crust was superbly flaky.

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Pie two of two, from The Pie Hole.

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It’s the same kind of ingredients that you’d use at home. If you had the time or energy 😉

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Bourban Pecan Pumpkin Pie.

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A mini-slice with more ice cream, paired with the new Brassneck Spirit Animal Barleywine. Not the best pairing, but works well enough. The barleywine uses TWO different Brettanomyces strains for a delicate funky tartness. The pie had an amazing filling. Everyone loved it. The bottom crust, however, was gummy and really underbaked. I wish they blind baked it or something. But really fluffy and tasty filling.

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Sister’s Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Raspberry Filling. Moist and a natural for MORE ice cream!

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Only the hardcore drinkers left at this point of the evening, so we broke out the Glenlivet 18. Hot stuff.

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I got a present! Ah, my family knows me so well.

All in all, it was a great Xmas party. It was still stressful at times, but no huge disasters like dropping the Porkken on the floor or not having enough food. Just the typical stuff like people showing up early while you’re still in your pajamas and you’re like, “SHIT! THEY’RE HERE ALREADY!”

People left happy and full, and that’s all that matters to me. I can already make myself happy with a block of cheese and some bread, but seeing other people happy made me truly happy.


Have a happy holidays and a great new year, folks! (Can you tell I’m happy?) Thanks so much for reading my blog over the last nine months. All the best to you, your family and loved ones. “May all your wildest dreams come true!”

3 thoughts on “A Porkken Christmas”

  1. I really enjoyed the detail in this blog post! I felt like I was right there with you each step of the way 🙂 gravy looks amazing, as does the porkken! Way to go for your first holiday feast!

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