I have made this dish a few times now and whenever ANYONE takes a bite, their eyes roll back and only sounds of pure delight escape. I have heard it described as many wondrous food experiences, and to really capture it, the sultry Tango dance probably best describes what happens when you take that bite.
WARNING: due to the overwhelming effect this has on one’s taste buds, I recommend serving in small portions and giving your guests (very lucky guests) a little time to gather themselves before serving the next course. 🙂
I have been asked for this recipe by many people… or the question – HOW DID YOU DO THIS?
What is pork belly and what makes it so delicious? Pork belly is a fatty slab of meat connected near the pork loin and pork spare ribs. This section of meat is typically used to make bacon (smoked) or panchetta (cured). Basically, uncured and unsmoked bacon.
Pork belly can be sold in slabs (slab bacon is already cured and/or smoked) or in 1.5 – 2 in wide strips. Depending on where you live, this can be readily found. In other locations, you may have to special order it from a butcher or you can find it on line. If you cannot find it or don’t want to pay the shipping (can cost as much as the pork), you could substitute country style pork ribs or pork spare ribs.
**Note, you could leave the skin on, but I don’t. If you notice in the picture above, the skin is “scored” – (ie: Checker pattern cut into the skin). The purpose of scoring the skin is to allow the rub to reach the meat. You can cut the skin off and fry it for some great cracklin.
When I do this, I use about 4 LBS to serve about 15 – 20 people in a appetizer size (don’t really need more than this). If using the spare ribs, leave the bone in but double the amount you purchase as the bones will add a bit to the total weight. You may also need to double the amount of rub as you will have twice the surface to cover.
IF substituting another cut of pork, be sure to get some good bacon (about 4-6 slices) to dice up and add flavor and fat when sautéing the vegetables.
Did I mention this is NOT low fat? That answers the question – WHAT MAKES THIS SO DELICIOUS. But it is also the reason for my suggestion to keep it to small serving sizes or as an appetizer.
I use a pressure cooker to make this, as I first came up with this combination, interest and process when playing with my new toy. While I use the pressure cooker, you don’t have to. I am writing the instructions for non-pressure cooker.
Note: You need at least 3 – 4 days to make this. This is a PLAN AHEAD recipe. Not much actual time in front of the stove or in the kitchen, but curing, resting, and braising time.
RUB and CURE
4 LBS Pork Belly, cut into 3in long by 1.5in wide strips (skin removed, if attached). The reason to cut into strips is to expose as much rub to the pork as possible.
4 TBS Kosher Salt
3 TBS Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3/4 Cup brown Sugar (light preferred, but dark will do)
1 TBS ground Cloves
1.) Thoroughly mix all in a bowl. Spread the pork on a plate or baking sheet and coat the pork on all sides using all of the rub/cure.
2.) Place the pork into a gallon sized zip lock bag (or divide between multiple bags). Do you still have more rub, dump it in and massage the pork to spread it around. When ready, squish out as much air as possible and seal the bag.
3.) Refrigerate on a plate or platter (may leak as the moisture releases from the cure) for 2 days (about 48 hours). Turn the bag over a couple times during this process. This is to allow the juices to marinate each side.
4.) After the 2 days, remove from the bag and rinse as best you can under cold water. Some of the rub will stick to the fat so it is ok to have speckles. This will release when you brown it.
5.) Take out a baking sheet, place a cooling rack over the baking sheet. After you rinse the pork, place on the rack and then in the refrigerator, UNCOVERED, for another 4 – 6 hours to dry out.
Let’s BRAISE IT
APRON is essential
Pork Belly from above
2 cups Carrots (about 6 carrots), rough chop
2 cups Onions (about 2 med), rough chop
1.5 cups Celery (about 5 stalks), rough chop
7 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 large sprig of fresh oregano (1 TBS dried leaves if you do not have fresh)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (1 TBS dried leaves of you do not have fresh)
3 branches of fresh parsley (.5 TBS dried if you do not have fresh)
3 bay leaves
3 14.5oz cans low/no sodium and no-fat chicken stock
3 – 4 cups white wine (I use sauvignon blanc)
Pre-heat oven to 275 – 300 degrees
1.) Move the pork to a dish to hold, and wash the cooking rack as you will re-use this for the cooked meat. Unless you have more, then get out a fresh one. Having the grate over a baking sheet will allow the fat to drip off. Don’t wory about losing any flavor, there is plenty of fat for multiple renderings.. 😉 Don’t have a grate? Line a baking sheet with paper towels instead.
2.) In a heavy bottom oven and stove proof pan (ideal, however, if you don’t have one that can do both, just have a pot with a lid that can be used on the stove and at minimum 8qt capacity), heat over Med Heat.
3.) This is where you put the apron on.
4.) Sear and brown the pork on all sides. Do in batches so you do not over crowd the pan. You want to sear that fat. It is OK if it is darker brown than you expected (even burnt – can always cut it off – enough fat to recover). The sugar from the rub will make it brown pretty fast. You want it crispy on the outside.
5.) Remove the pork to the baking sheet. Continue until all the pork is seared.
6.) Your pan/pot will have lots of fat and lots of bits left over from the rub in it. Pour the HOT fat, grits and all, into a glass or metal can. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Don’t worry about getting all the bits out, but as much as you comfortably can.
7.) The good thing about bits is that they are heavier than the fat, so from the top of the glass dish/metal can you used, add back about 3 TBS of fat back into the pan.
8.) Increase the heat to med-high and add in the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves and herbs. Stir every couple of minutes until the carrots start to brown (about 10 minutes).
9.) When the carrots are browned. Add in the wine and let simmer about 3 minutes.
10.) Add in the chicken stock, stir and let go for about 2 minutes.
11.) Add in the pork and stir and cover as much of the pork as possible. Add additional chicken stock (or water – don’t worry water will be flavored and evaporate out in other steps) if necessary. It is ok to have part of the pork poking out of the liquid.
12.) Bring the whole thing to a simmer, about 10 minutes.
13.) Cover and cook for about 60 minutes. (it requires 60 minutes in a pressure cooker set to high and done, probably less, but I like it at 60 minutes)
14.) Check it, stir gently (don’t want to break up the pork), and replace the cover, slightly askew (so you have a good sized vent while it continues to cook.
15.) Cook another 45 minutes, then check it for doneness. It is done if you try to pick out out of piece of pork with tongs and it starts to break apart. It if doesn’t want to fall apart when you look at it, it is NOT done. Put it back in for another 30 minutes. Test again, and then do 15 minute intervals until it is done.
16.) When done, remove it from the pan and place on the rack to cool down.
17.) Now, place a large fine mesh colander over a large bowl, and strain the chunks out of the liquid. Press down to release more of the liquid from the vegetables. Toss the vegetables, but KEEP the liquid.
18.) Place the liquid into a large stock pot (can be same pan used to cook the pork) and bring to a solid simmer. reduce the liquid by 1/3rd. So if you have 3 cups of liquid, you should end up with 2 cups. Taste. If it tastes watery, then continue to simmer another 15 minutes and check again. REMEMBER – there will be a lot of fat on the surface of the sauce. You can skim this off now, or wait. Make sure you stir it up a bit so when you taste you are not getting a mouth full of fat.
19.) Now you are going to be disappointed. Sorry about this, but it is still not time to eat it… Although I still taste test about now. What i do is take 1/2 of one of the pieces of pork, over med high heat (need that apron again – it will splatter), sear the pork again on all sides, and then pour a little sauce over it and taste. Yumm.. BUT you are not done yet.
20.) With braising, being able to let all of this goodness sit over night it a BIG key. It only gets better. Put the sauce in a ziplock bag or container and the pork in a separate bag or container and refrigerate over night.
21.) Magically – the sauce will separate allowing you to easily remove the extra fat and have a beautiful sauce to serve with your pork.
Yes, we are finally here. Hopefully, you will agree that while there were many steps, these last few make it worth your while. As I mentioned at the beginning, no one will walk away less than fulfilled.
1.) When you are ready, take out the pork, slice in to 1 inch cubes and let sit at room temperature about 15 minutes.
2.) Add the sauce back to a sauce pan over low heat, just to make it nice and warm.
3.) Put a large saucepan on over med heat. (Put that apron back on – there will be more splatter)
4.) Add the pork to the pan, leaving space in between each to allow it to sear nice and brown on all sides making the outer-edges nice and crispy while the interior is soft and juicy. You may have to do this in batches.
5.) Place the pork into a large bowl with appetizer plates on the side, or other individual dishes and spoon the sauce over top. Then serve hot with a spoon. You can use a fork, but the spoon will allow the sauce to enjoyed with the deliciousness.
** You can also add the sauce the pan to heat in the final step, just be sure to strain out most of the rendered fat.. Yes there will be more rendered fat. But that makes it healthier right? 😉
Serve French Dip Style (dip the bun in the sauce, then top with the pork), or just on a bun with pickled red onions, or other accompaniments.
I hope you enjoy this as much as everyone I have served.