I will readily confess that almost anything swine appeals to me, save perhaps a bout of influenza, or those pickled feet sitting in a jar by the cashier at the quickie mart. My old go-to, particularly when trying out a new restaurant, was the chicken entree. It was my belief if the kitchen could not produce a decently cooked avian piece of meat how could I trust anything else coming out of their workspace. Over the past years, my focus and barometer for a baseline achievement has become the pig.
Thanks to a Ladies Home Journal, of 1971, my mother started to make a delicious baked ham studded with cloves. Of course, who could pass up Sunday morning’s crispy strips presented right next the spread of bagels, lox and white fish. Clearly, I did not grow up with the cultural taboos around eating pork, so I cannot explain way my adult admiration for this meat as a recalcitrant dismissal of a childhood banned consumption. When it comes to roasting I think no other meat holds up as well giving me the caramelized crunch I adore coupled with a moist chew.
I have been slow roasting pork shoulder for years, perhaps marinated in slightly over-aged kimchi, or rubbed with a citrusy annatto paste as well as pierced with copious quantities of garlic, which then gets hours of a smoky bath.
Over the past few years, one cut from the pig has become a rising star. Pork belly has definitely become all the rage, and I have to assume this increased interest has affected its value on the Chicago commodities exchange. If you remember the fat-phopic period of the nineteen nineties it is an amazing turn-about in our eating habits. I had a friend back in the dawn of that decade that endeavored to import a fantastic line of cheeses from Australia. Having lived and worked down-under I was very familiar with the potential of these products – I still can taste the lavender speckled farmhouse truckle that married so well to caramelized fruits. Within a year and half the office was packed up, and the American market was robbed of its pleasures.
Fads and trends clearly move on, and in this case with a whiplash (or more precisely, cardio-vascular) like effect.
Braised Pork Belly – yields 4 to 6 servings
2-1/2 pounds pork belly
6 garlic cloves – chopped
1 medium onion – sliced
3 celery stalks - sliced on an angle
1-1/2 inch piece ginger – peeled and sliced julienne
1/4-cup soy sauce
2-tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 whole star anise
Pre-heat the oven to 450-degrees.
Score the fat cap of the pork with your knife to create a crosshatch pattern. Don not cut through the fat into the meat.
Toss the onion, celery and ginger together, and place on the bottom of a 4 by 6-inch roasting pan. Place the pork on top of the vegetables. Cook the pork belly in the oven for an hour, or until a crisp top has been formed.
Then pour over the soy sauce, mirin and vinegar, and snuggle in the star anise. Lower the oven heat to 325-degrees, and cook the pork belly for an additional 2 hours.
Remove the pork to a plate, and pour the fat and caramelized vegetables into a fine sieve. Allow the fat to drip into a container (use the fat dripping to sauté potatoes on another day).
Slice the pork, and garnish with the caramelized vegetable.