Well, alrighty then – the holidays are over, and it’s time to get back on track. And since it’s Monday, that means it’s time for
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On Christmas Eve I got kind of ambitious and decided to do a pork belly appetizer, followed by roast duck. I over-cooked the duck (not sure if it was me or the recipe, which I followed to a T, but then again I’d never roasted a duck before), but that’s okay, because while the portion of this braised pork belly served over a puree of parsnips was fairly small, it was so filling and delicious that the loss of an entree was no big deal.
Now, this is not exactly an inexpensive dish to make; there are a lot of spices in the cure, which technically could cure up to 6 pounds of pork belly, so if you wanted to use less cure for a smaller piece of belly, go right ahead but don’t skimp on it. And it takes quite awhile – at least 3 days, and that’s if you decide to cure the pork for 48 as opposed to 72 hours (for the record, I cured it for the lesser amount of time). Braising it takes 7 hours, then there’s a period of at least 30 minutes to cool the pork belly before pan frying it in lard or butter.
Having said that, you can cure and braise the pork belly, then refrigerate it in the braising liquid for up to a week before actually cooking and serving it. And while it’s time-consuming, it’s a pretty simple dish – you bury the belly in a spice cure, refrigerate it, then braise it in chicken stock in the oven. The hardest part is slicing the pork into four equal portions and frying it in a skillet…not exactly rocket surgery.
And did I mention how darn delicious it is? I served it over a puree of parsnips, but it would be good with just about anything, as long as it’s not anything too terribly heavy; mashed potatoes might be a little much, since the pork belly is so rich.
Note: Don’t be intimidated by the calories, fat and carb content in the nutritional information; the recipe software I use is calculating the the raw pork belly, and a lot of the fat is rendered out in the cooking process. Also, all of the carbohydrates come from the spice rub and vegetables in the braising liquid, almost all of which are discarded. I’m willing to bet that this comes in at less than 10 grams of carb per serving.
Braised Pork Belly
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1/4 cup cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
8 tablespoons black peppercorns
4 pieces star anise
4 pieces cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons white peppercorns
4 teaspoons whole cloves
4 tablespoons ground coriander
1 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup coconut sugar
1 pound pork belly
1 small onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Working in batches, grind the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, white peppercorns, and whole cloves in a spice grinder until fine. Whisk the ground spices together with the ground coriander, kosher salt and coconut sugar in a mixing bowl.
Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry. Pour 1/3 of the spice cure into a rectangular glass baking dish as close to the size of the pork belly as possible. Place the pork on top of the spice rub in the dish, then carefully pour the remaining cure over the belly, effectively burying it. Tightly cover the dish with plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate for 48 to 72 hours, turning the pork belly once halfway through.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Remove the pork belly from the cure, rinse off the seasonings, and pat dry. In a large saucepan, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Place the pork belly in a Dutch oven and pour the chicken stock and vegetables over the pork. Cover, place in the oven and braise for 3 1/2 hours.
Raise the oven temperature to 275 F and continue braising for another 3 1/2 hours, or until very tender. Remove from the oven and allow the pork belly cool in the liquid. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Remove the pork belly from the braising liquid and cut into four equal portions. Heat two tablespoons of lard or butter in a heavy, medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pork belly and cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through and crisp.
Nutrition (per serving): 870 calories, 67.6g total fat, 88.9mg cholesterol, 28712.6mg sodium, 991.8mg potassium, 48.7g carbohydrates, 10.4g fiber, 24.4g sugar, 21.2g protein.