Monday, March 10, 2014

Pork Belly? Yes, please!

As I sit here, I'll be honest. I don't even know where to start on pork belly. It is so delicious. In case you are unaware, bacon comes from the belly of the hog... ta da! Pork belly! A few years ago I bought pork belly for the first time. I was unaware of what to do with it, because I'd only ever had it as bacon. Fast forward to more recent times, pork belly has become widely sought after. I bought my second pork belly EVER last fall. I decided I would prepare it very simply-- fry it in pieces. But this kind of thing needs to be shared. There's only so much pork fat one can eat. Trust me on this... I love fat, but really, there's only so much one person can eat. We hosted what we later dubbed "Meat Fest" shortly thereafter, and that seemed like the perfect time to break out the pork belly and fry it up. Of course it was a big hit in its very simplistic form and I was ready to buy another one and venture out from my simple preparation.

This is where I'm going to side-track ever so slightly. When you are buying a cut of meat like this, especially a fatty piece of pork, sourcing is of the utmost importance. Hogs aren't treated very well commercially, and many undesirable toxins are stored in fat. You can see where this headed... if you eat the fat of a commercially grown hog, you are going to get a large and unneeded dose of toxins. So if you are going to indulge in this delicious cut of meat, and you're going to want to, source it responsibly. If you can't source it through a local CSA, US Wellness Meats is another good option. But I'd try to to find a local pasture centered hog farmer first.

Back to the BELLY! I saw a recipe for pork belly in Nom Nom Paleo's Food for Humans and knew I had to try it. So this recipe is an adapted version of hers. This is not the exact recipe.

I started out with a simple pork belly, around 1 pound. Prick holes in the skin. You can use a sharp knife, or in my case, I used my meat tenderizer. Just try your best NOT to prick holes into the actual meat. Then you want to score it. (I didn't take pictures at this point, I'm going to say because I was so excited. But I think the more accurate statement would be that it was late and I was tired.) I did 3 parallel lines down the length of the belly, though I've also seen folks who do a criss-cross score. Whatever floats your boat. While you're doing this, boil about 1 quart of water. After it comes to a boil, dissolve about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the water. Put the pork belly onto a rack in the sink, and pour the water over the skin side of the belly. Then dry it off with a paper towel. Dry it off really, really well. I've even read of some folks using a hair dryer. Yes, it sounds silly and you might even wonder why this is necessary. Scalding and drying the pork skin helps to draw it together, resulting in a crispier skin.

Ok, so that was the hard part. Then you're going to throw together this marinade really fast:
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mayple syrup
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Mix that together and rub it into the meat side of the belly. Then place the belly in a container, skin side UP, cover and marinate over night.

When you are ready to cook it, take it out and let it rest at room temp for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. Roast the belly at 375. Mine took about 45 minutes, the larger the belly, the longer it will take. You want to make sure it comes to 160. When it reaches temp, turn on the broiler and broil for about 5 or 10 minutes, or until the skin is nice and crispy. Cause nothing is worse than an undercooked flabby piece of skin. YIKES!

Have you seen those cooking shows where the chef always says to let the meat rest! This is nothing to skimp on. If you cut into it too early, you lose all those delicious juices. It's worth the 10 or 15 minute wait. Get everything else ready. That usually takes up the time you need.You'll be glad you waited. I promise.

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