Pork belly. Also known as pork side or middlen. The most treasured part of any hog purchase because it is used to MAKE BACON.
But every now and then you have to try something new.
At a recent visit to Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta I had the fried pork belly appetizer with sorghum glaze. UH.MAZE.ING. I was initially going to share with the rest of my dinner companions but after I took a bite I told them to stick it. Restaurant Eugene is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant and we can’t wait to go back once we get done paying the last installment for our last meal, if you get my drift…
So that got me thinking. Of course bacon is a thing of beauty, but what if I could make a similar pork belly recipe? Hello, Google…and I found Dan Barber’s Pork Belly. You do have to plan in advance for this recipe because it needs to cure for three days before being slow cooked for 7 hours, but honestly the overall time investment was minimal, making this an easy and delcious recipe.
I followed the recipe almost exactly. For the cure mix, I forgot to buy star anise so I subbed dried basil because I smell anise in basil sometimes. (Don’t ask me for rational explanations.) I used ground white pepper instead of whole white peppercorns. I subbed celery seed for fennel seed. Also, I scaled back the sugar a little bit. Since I had a 3 pound pork belly and the recipe called for a six pounder, I halved the cure mix.
After blending the cure mix I rubbed it all over my partially thawed belly, then packed the cure around it, wrapped it up in wax paper then aluminum foil. It sat in the fridge for a little over three days. When it came time to cook, I rinsed as directed. Since I had failed to cut off the skin before curing (duh to me, I’ll take it off first next time) I cut the belly in half and ran it through my Chef’s Choice Electric Food Slicer to cut off the tough skin. I put the two pieces fat side down in a ceramic dish, poured two full quarts of chicken stock over it and covered with foil.
In it went for 7 hours.
When time was up, I pulled the dish out and took a look. Not terribly impressive looking. Kind of like a huge chunk of lame, pasty bacon. Good thing I wasn’t done yet!
I cut the two halves into 8 chunks each and fired up the cast iron skillet. Frying first on the fat side for 3-4 minutes until it got nice and dark and carmely and crunchy, then on each side for a minute or so until the entire small chunk was crunchy and brown.
CAUTION. DO NOT FRY THESE CHUNKS UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPLATTER SCREEN BIG ENOUGH TO COVER YOUR WHOLE SKILLET. It WILL splatter all over God’s green earth and burn you and your loved ones if you don’t cover it up.
While the pork belly goodness was frying I was also frying up some cubed red potatoes in butter with a few tablespoons of Mill Creek Spice’s Steak Seasoning. Man, is that some good stuff.
Anyway, so once you have your well-crisped chunks of pork belly, drain as you please and enjoy. This made me do a dance in the kitchen, just ask Test Subject Bill. Good luck eating more than two. They are SUPER rich but unbelievably tasty. I think it might be better than bacon.
But a word to the wise – make this for a crowd! This is way too much for two people and good enough to share with your best friends! Also, consider serving with something pickled or maybe a salad with vinaigrette just to cut the richness of the fat. It is a thing of beauty. Ah, pork belly euphoria!!