Ah, pork belly. Around here, the only kind you usually find has been salted, cured, smoked, and sliced — that’s your regular grocery store bacon. But down at Mr. Chen’s on South University, they sell uncured, raw, skin-on pork belly, and I like to play around with it from time to time. Uncured belly can be made to do so many things, but my favorite method is to braise it in a savory liquid and slice it thin. We bought a big package of the luscious pork recently to play with, and the results were pretty good. Both of these dishes utilize beans, because beans are a good, solid base to help cut the richness of the pork. But honestly, this stuff is so good, it’s hard to resist just eating it right out of the oven.
Basic Braised Pork Belly
- 1 pound pork belly, skin removed. The easiest way to do this is to have the belly just slightly frozen, which makes that skin easy to shave off.
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt.
- 1 tablespoon sugar.
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper.
- 1/2 teaspoon all-spice.
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander.
- 4 cups beef or chicken stock.
- 2 cups dry white wine.
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce.
- 2 carrots, sliced.
- 2 stalks celery, sliced.
- 1 onion, chopped.
- 4 cloves garlic.
- Herbs — parsley, thyme, bay leaf all do well here, but do what you like.
Prepare a dry rub with the salt, pepper, sugar, all-spice, and coriander. Rub into the pork belly and place the belly in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is better). While the pork is curing, prepare your braising liquid with the remaining ingredients, simmering in a sauce pan until the liquid has reduced by almost half. Strain out the vegetables and herbs. Rinse your cured belly, then brown the hell out of it in a cast iron skillet. Seriously, you want this stuff crispy on the outside. Place in a baking dish, and pour the braising liquid over the lot. Keep in a 300 degree oven for around 3 hours, or until the belly is fork tender. For easiest slicing, let the belly chill in the fridge — but I doubt you’ll wait that long.
The first dish we did with our pork belly was thin-sliced belly with white beans and kale, which we prepared similarly to this soup recipe — just with less liquid and more bean puree. The result was pillow-soft pork atop richly flavored beans and greens — a dish that was decadent and earthy all at once.
The second dish we called “The English Breakfast Bowl,” because we incorporated several elements of the classic English fry-up in one bowl. Rich baked beans were topped by chunks of the braised belly, a poached egg, and two halves of grilled heirloom tomato. It was a messy, savory, delight that made for quite a filling dinner.
Pork belly is a cut of meat that takes a little time to get right, but the results are so good when you do. It’s one of the richest things you’ll ever eat, so just a little goes a long way. Let us know how you like yours in the comments — and happy cooking!