Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pork Belly

While pork belly has become quite the fad recently, many people are turned off by it. Admittedly, it doesn't have the most appetizing name in the world. What surprises a lot of people, though, is how much pork belly they already eat without realizing it: bacon. Yep, bacon is simply cured pork belly, and the reason bacon is delicious is the same reason pork belly is delicious: high fat content.

If you can find a place that supplies pork belly in your area, consider yourself fortunate (I get mine from the Korean grocery store in town). Pork belly is wonderfully rich and flavorful, and you owe it to yourself to add it to your rotation.

For this dish, we had a guest chef. Yes, unfortunately I cannot take credit for any of this. My wonderful girlfriend and jewelry blogger took over for this meal, and from what I can tell, she is pretty proud. She should be.

First, your ingredients. This cut of meat is so good on it's own that I really don't like to add too much to it. I simply score it, season it with *ahem* salt, pepper, and thyme and roast/braise it over some onions, garlics, and beef stock + wine.

So when you get a slab of pork belly, it's going to look something like this. The top part is skin, and underneath that skin is delicious pork meat and fat.

First, take a sharp knife and score the skin. Try to cut through all the skin but avoid cutting into the actual meat. This will help your skin get really nice and crispy (one of the best parts of pork belly).

I like to score it diagonally from two different directions, resulting in a criss-cross diamond like pattern. Season your pork belly with salt, pepper, and maybe a little thyme.

Next, chop up some vegetables and throw them at the bottom of a pan. For this, we just used some onions we had lying around, some carrots, and threw a whole bunch of garlic cloves in there.

Place the pork belly on top of the bed of vegetables.

Turn your oven all the way up and put it in. Our goal here is to cook it on high heat so that the skin on top bubbles up and gets nice and crispy.

Now, due to "camera difficulties" (read: my inability to remember to put the memory card in the camera), I do not have any pictures of what it is supposed to look like once the skin is cooked. Just know that it should take about 30 minutes, give or take a bit, and your skin should be bubbling and crisping.

Next, I like to pour in some beef stock and some wine (red, white, or both...who cares), and turn the temperature of the oven way down (200 or 250). We want to slow cook this thing in the stock+wine.

When it's done, you should have something that looks like this


I hope you enjoy the pork belly. There are surprisingly few recipes out there on the internet about cooking pork belly, so hopefully this can help some people trying to cook this dish.

One thing of note: next time I cook pork belly, instead of putting the thing into a super hot oven, I think instead I'm going to put it on a rack close to the broiler and just broil it really hot in order to get that skin crisping up real good. THEN I'm going to slowly braise it in the stock+wine just like this time.

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