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by on February 25th, 2014

Braised Pork Belly

And she said oink, oink, oink all the way home or at least into my pot.

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Food trends come and go. In 2013 we had our cupcakes (they’ve been around for quite a while), pretzel buns, sriracha, bacon, egg on top of everything.

From what I have read on some internet chats the top trending things now are citrus flavorings, (especially grapefruit), craft cocktails including “adult” milkshakes, Asian bowls, raw meats, bitter greens, anything fermented, bourbon, oysters, vegetable-based dishes; noodle bars, “Spam” dishes, tortas, biscuits, yeahhhh and pork belly (Lardo) is still on the list,  smoked everything, designer brand-name meats, Korean inspiration in our kitchens, woooah and the rise of the pressure cooker.

I love my pressure cooker and I do use it from time to time; it is the quickest way I know how to make a good stew. Just throw in the meat and cook for about 20 minutes and you have fork tender stew meat; and I can cook a pot of beans in less than 30 minutes.

Over the last few years I have seen pork belly in a lot of things. Pork Belly taco is great from Big Star restaurant in Chicago, pork belly on steamed buns (recipe in a couple of days along with the steamed buns),  pork belly cut into little lardons and fried until crispy as a garnish for a good bowl of creamy soup. I’ve seen pork belly served on top of french fries, and my favorite is a pork belly BLT sandwich with arugula and a tomato fennel jam (Longman and Eagle); and I may try that one with some of my left over braised pork belly.

So, what is pork belly anyway? It’s a boneless cut of fatty meat from the belly of a pig. Both bacon and the pork belly start as a cut from the fatty underbelly of “porky”. Curing the piece is what turns it into bacon (my son, Paul, smokes his pork belly and turns it into bacon), but braising that same piece of meat turns it into the most mouth watering bite you will ever taste. Some say pork belly is the new bacon.  I love them both.

So I’ve decided instead of having one long post with a thousand pictures I would break this pork belly marathon into 3 or 4 different post and post them a few days apart.

First we’re doing the braised pork belly, then the steamed buns and quick cucumber pickles comes next and then maybe in another post I will show you the BLT appetizer. I don’t want to burn you out of pork belly but feel like all these should be grouped together. Then maybe when you think “she’s finally done with all that PB, I’ll give you the pork belly eggs Benedict or pork belly tacos.

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Prettiest pork belly I’ve ever seen.

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Saute the celery and onions until lightly brown.

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Add in the mustard.

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Stir in the brown, bay leaves and thyme.

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Add in the pork belly, cover and put in oven.

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DSC_2030After cooking 4 hours (I don’t think mine could have cooked another minute (temperature was 203°). I moved the belly to another pan and strained all the pan juices over the whole thing.

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Put plastic wrap on the surface of the meat then top with another pan that will fit inside the dish holding the meat.

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Weight down the dish with some cans of vegetables. This will give you a really flat piece of meat so when you brown it in a skillet (or oven) you have uniform browning.

Crispy Mustard Braised Pork Belly

Dry rub:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dry mustard powder
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lemon, zested
2 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 pounds fresh pork belly, skin removed
Pork belly:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, julienned
2 ribs celery, sliced on the bias
1/2 fennel bulb, tough middle discarded and remaining bulb julienned
2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
Thyme bundle
3 to 4 bay leaves

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/crispy-mustard-braised-pork-belly-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Dry rub:
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Massage the rub all over the pork belly, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Pork belly:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the belly from the refrigerator. Coat a large straight-sided pan with olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, fennel, and garlic. Season the vegetables with crushed red pepper and salt, to taste. Cook the vegetables until they start to soften and become very aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the mustard and 2 cups of the chicken stock. Taste to make sure it is delicious. Add the pork belly and toss in the thyme and bay leaves. Cover and put in the preheated oven. Braise the belly for 6 hours, checking occasionally. If the liquid level goes down add the remaining stock.

Cook’s Note: It is also a great idea to rotate the pan a couple of times throughout the cooking process.

When the belly is done it will be very tender and succulent. Remove the lid and set the oven to broil. Broil the pork belly until it turns golden, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly, from the braising liquid, to a cutting board. Cut the belly into 6 or 8 equal portions depending on your appetite. Arrange the pork on a serving platter and ladle the braising liquid on top.

Note:  I used a technique from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook — after the braising is done. I carefully lifted the pork belly from the cooking pan and put it in a clean pan.  I strained all the liquid and poured that over the pork belly. I then covered with plastic wrap, put a pan on top of the pork belly and then added some heavy cans of vegetables to weight it down and I put it in the refrigerator overnight. This is suppose to compress the pork belly and give a really flat surface so when you brown the pieces, all surfaces are in contact with the skillet. This isn’t a necessary step; I just wanted to give it a try.

I always like to brown the pork belly after braising to get the crispy outside no matter what you use it in.

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