Sunday, February 12, 2012

(Get In My) Pork Belly!

Oh. My. Goodness.  I have never attempted this type of dish, never really thought of it as a possibility.  In my California mind it goes against almost every instinct of "healthy food" I could think of.  And yet.  I was at the Marin Sun Farms stand on last Sunday's market and there was this slab of pork belly.  I ask the guy at the stand, "Is this what bacon's made from?"  He replied, "Well, yes, but you'd need to cure it, then smoke it to get to where it's bacon."  Well, I don't have a smoker (yet), but I knew I'd seen pork bellies on some cooking show recently--Chopped, Iron Chef...--and then there's always Epicurious where I found this recipe from my favorite chef ever, Dan Barber.  Dan Barber runs my Mecca of all things food.  Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York is where I am really looking forward to experiencing some day soon.  This pork belly is so simple and I promise you will never look at the belly of the pig the same.  It does take a few days' curing time, but the cooking process is very straightforward and I did mine in the crock pot.

Dan Barber's Pork Belly

A couple of notes about this recipe and the cure mix. 

  1. I omitted the sugar from the cure entirely and it came out fabulous.  I was a little worried the sugar would do something specific in the curing process as so much is called for it but the dish turned out amazing, so if you want to cut the sugar out, go for it. 
  2. After the curing process I did rinse everything off per the recipe and then put it in the crock pot in the morning, added the chicken stock, then set it on low for 8 hours. When ready to start the searing, remove the pork belly gently, it will be very tender and you want to keep that fat layer intact.
  3. When you go to sear the slices--I cut mine about an inch thick--watch yourself with the hot pan.  I used a little grapeseed oil to get the non-stick effect.  DO NOT stand directly over the pan.  The moisture from the pork belly will cause everything to pop and splatter, and you can get a nasty oil burn if you don't watch out and stay back.  Wear long sleeves.  This searing process took max. 10 minutes and I did it in three batches of 3 slices each. 
This is a very rich dish.  You have to taste it in one full layered bite, don't be tempted to remove the fat layer.  It is sandwiched between the sear and it is pure heaven.  I served this with some sauteed swiss chard (from Tomatero Farm) with shallots and garlic.  Also, a really nice, light salad of butter and red leaf lettuces (from Full Belly Farm), segmented pommelo (from Chinchiolo) and CALIFORNIA avocados (yes, they are available at the farmer's markets now and even if they are not organic, buy them, they are infinitely better than anything that comes from other continents!)  I  dressed the salad in a little pomegranate champagne vinegar, olive oil, juice from the pommelo and salt and pepper.  It was a perfect foil for the pork belly.

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