Outside of Iberia, suckling pig may not have the same level of popularity, but it doesn’t make it any less succulent! Leitão assado or, less frequently, leitão assado à Bairrada originated in Covões, Cantanhede, and is considered one of the richest gastronomic treats of the region, with restaurants all along the entire north-south estrada nacional (national highway) from Lisbon to Porto serving it to locals and tourists alike. If you haven’t tried it, do!
And while you’re at it, pair it with Portugal’s equally undiscovered gastronomic gem, espumante. Typically made with Baga or Bical, it’s the perfect wine to gently lift the gorgeous fat off the palate and leave a rich slightly floral finish behind.
- 1 whole suckling pig (10-15 lbs), washed and cleaned
- 4 ounces salted butter
- Oregano, to taste
- Sea salt, to taste
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 laurel leaf
- 1 cup white wine.
- Melt butter.
- Mix in oregano, salt, crushed garlic and pepper. Rub butter mixture over and inside the suckling pig. Wrap marinated suckling pig in triple-bagged plastic bag and refrigerate. Let marinate for at least 5 hours.
- Bring marinated pig to room temperature. Heat oven to 250°F. Remove pig from plastic bag, place stomach-down in oven pan on a rack.
- Place laurel leaf inside pig. Drizzle with white wine. Roast until pig reaches 130°F (test with cooking thermometer – likely to be a couple of hours depending on the size of your pig).
- Make sure you flip the pig onto its backside about halfway through. Baste every 20-25 minutes.
- When the pig reaches 130°F, turn up the heat to 400°F to get a crispy exterior, making sure you turn the pig once to distribute the crispiness.
- Tip: If the pig is browning too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil to protect against burning.
- Internal temp should reach 160°F. Remove from oven and let cool on cutting board.
- Serve with a brut (dry) sparkling wine, preferably espumante.