Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crispy Pork Belly

         Pork belly. It is simply one of the tastiest cuts of meat you will get from any beast. It is of course the source of the almighty bacon, but if that's the only way you ever eat it, you are missing out. A nice big piece of pork belly, slow cooked, is a little melting piece of heaven. Leave the skin on and cook it right, and it will be a crispy, crunchy, soft-in-the-middle revelation. 
        If you've ever had pork rinds or chicharones, then you know how good crispy pork skin can be. When done right, it has a satisfying crunch, and then  melts away, leaving only a hint of delicious fatty goodness. A nice layer of perfectly crisped skin on top of a soft piece of slow-cooked pork belly creates a perfect contrast of textures. 

          To make this recipe I use raw, cured pork belly. The pork belly that I found at my local grocery store was already cured, but if what you find hasn't been already it's very easy to cure yourself. I've included a recipe for a simply brine at the bottom of this post. Just submerge the pork belly in the brine and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Whether you brine it yourself or your buy pork that has already been cured, you will have to rinse it thoroughly before cooking to make sure that it is not too salty. 

         The red wine braised cabbage from my last post is an ideal accompaniment to the crispy pork belly. The sweet & sour flavour of the cabbage goes really well with the rich meat. It's reminiscent of sauerkraut, or even Korean kimchee, which is maybe why I decided to throw a couple of Asian flavours in my glaze for the pork. Honey garlic glaze is always good with pork - the addition of ginger and sesame oil just takes it to the next level.   

Prep time: 15 minute + 3 hour rest. Cook time: 30 minutes. Make 4 appetizers

4 3.5 oz (100g) pieces skin-on, cured pork belly 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

3/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped  
2 tablespoons water
Pre-heat the oven to 280F

1. Thoroughly rinse the pork belly in cold water and then pat dry with paper towels.  Score the skin of the belly down to the fat using the sharpest knife you own. An inexpensive box-cutter razor works great for jobs like this. Allow the skin to dry in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

2. Heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan and place the pieces of pork belly in the pan skin side down. Adjust the heat until the skin is frying with a slow steady sizzle. Allow the skin to fry until it is golden and crispy. This will take about  8 to 12 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pan as it cooks, adjusting the temperature of the pan as you go. You want the pan hot enough that you can hear the skin sizzling, but not so hot that it will burn. 

3. When the skin has crisped, flip the belly over and finish it in the oven at 280F for 15 minutes. 

4. While the pork cooks in the oven, make the honey glaze. Combine the honey, mustard, soy sauce, ginger & galic in a small sauce pot. Add a couple tablespoons water and bring to a simmer. Let simmer until the water has boiled off, about 5 minutes, then strain.  

5. Remove the pork belly from the oven and then use a pastry brush to apply the honey glaze. Return the pork to the oven for 2 minute and then take it back out and glaze it one more time.

6. Heat the red wine braised cabbage and then divide it among 4 plates. Place one piece of pork belly on each plate and drizzle with extra braising juice from the cabbage and honey ginger glaze.

*to cure the pork

Simple Brine:
1/2 gallon (2L) water
1/2 cup (135g) salt

Bring the brine to a boil then cool it down in the fridge. You can add any aromatics you like, such as garlic, thyme or bay leaves. Submerge pork in brine and let sit in the fridge overnight.