Cochinillo asado, or roast suckling pig, is one of the most typical dishes of the cuisine of Castilla, Spain, especially in the city of Segovia. Chefs take pride in the tenderness of their roast pigs and prove how delicate and off-the-bone the meat is by cutting the pig with a plate instead of a knife.
The technique is the same as roasting any other kind of meat – you need good seasoning and time. A suckling pig is an ideal centerpiece for a traditional Spanish meal. It's visually impressive, and a little pig goes a long way in feeding a crowd. With the right side dishes, you can offer a true medieval-style banquet in under 3 hours.
Suckling pigs are much smaller than the pigs that are commonly roasted on an outdoor spit. About one-third of the size, it may be difficult to find in the United States, but it is worth the search, as their flavor has no comparison. Ask your butcher or organic meat stand in farmers' markets, as they might be able to find you one when ordering in advance.
For best results, use Spanish olive oil, which has a sweeter taste than Italian olive oil, but if you can't find it, try a cold-pressed olive oil selection that describes its flavor as "fruity."
Gather the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Peel the carrots and the onion. Slice the carrots into 4 pieces each and coarsely chop the onion. Reserve.
Season the piglet with salt and pepper, inside and out. Wrap the ears with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Place the piglet in a large, open roasting pan. Coat with olive oil and place dabs of butter all over.
Place in oven and roast, basting often with the pan drippings, for about 2 1/2 hours.
About 10 minutes before removing the piglet from the oven, place the carrots and onion in the pan with the piglet.
When a safe temperature of 145 F, minimum, is reached at the thickest part of the piglet's meat, away from bone or fat, remove the piglet from the oven. Remove the aluminum foil from the ears and place the piglet on a serving dish, letting it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. Keep warm in a warming drawer or in the oven on the lowest setting if not serving right away. Be mindful that the meat can dry out if left in the warming drawer for too long.
While the meat rests, pour juices from the roasting pan into a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetables. When the juices start to sizzle, skim the fat off of the top. Add 2 cups of water. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly to thicken. Strain through a strainer or cheesecloth into a gravy boat or small bowl.
Serve the piglet on a large platter with the warm gravy on the side, and a side of patatas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) and a simple green salad.
The gravy in the recipe doesn't use the vegetable pieces, but you can choose to use them in your gravy by following this easy variation:
- Once the piglet is resting after cooking, pour the pan juices and vegetables into the blender. Blend at high speed with 1/2 cup of water until well processed. Strain the gravy to get rid of small bits and pieces. Reserve.
- In a medium pan on medium-high heat, pan sauteé 2 cups of sliced white mushrooms in olive oil until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the strained gravy to the mushroom pan and lower the temperature to low. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and stir to mix and warm up the gravy. Check salt and pepper.
- Serve on the side.