Friday, July 5, 2013

Braised and Brined Belly

Pork belly is my all-time favorite pork part, after pork cheeks. In the past I have always made porchetta with it, in an endeavor to emulate the perfect food- RoliRoti. Today however, I was looking for something even more unctuous to top that delicious smoked bread from last week with (I’ve begun making it every week, it’s just so good!) so I decided to brine the belly for a day, before cooking it low and slow in a rich delicious braising liquid that could later become the sauce.

Serves: 6-8
Time: 15 min. prep for brine, 24 hours total brining time’
          30 min. prep for braise, 3.5 hours total braising time

Brine Ingredients:

3 pounds pork belly
½ gallon water
¼ cup sugar
¼ salt
2 Tbsp peppercorns
2 Tbsp allspice berries
2 Tbsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves

Braise Ingredients:

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 stalk celery
1 small carrot
1 small onion
5 cloves garlic
2 cups apple cider
2 cups chicken stop
1 cup veal stock
½ cup red wine
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
few sprigs of thyme
Tbsp peppercorns


In a seriously large container or bowl combine all of the brine ingredients aside from the pork belly and whisk them together. Taste your brining liquid (salty sweet to the max, yes?!) then submerge the pork belly (I used a heavy coffee mug to keep mine under the surface) and refrigerate for 24 hours. I usually talk lovingly to mine every time I open the fridge, but I don’t think that makes a difference.

After 24 hours, pull the pork out and rinse it well. Preheat your oven to 300°F.  In a large dutch oven saute your carrots, onion, celery, and garlic cloves in the grapeseed oil. (You can use any kind of oil with a high smoke point, I’ve just been on a grapeseed kick lately.) Once the mirepoix begins to glimmer with sweat add in your apple cider, chicken stock, veal stock, red wine, and red wine vinegar. Throw in your bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns as well. Bring everything to a simmer, take a taste (blow on it first!) turn off the heat, then slip in the pork belly skin side up.

Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven for 3 hours, turning the pork belly every 45 minutes. The liquid should be just barely simmering, so if it is boiling any harder than that when you take the pork out to flip, turn down the heat. After 3 hours, or whenever your pork belly reaches 160°F, remove the pork from the dutch oven, and let cool.

Strain the braising liquid and reduce until it is napee. Cut the pork belly into cubes, sear on all sides, and place on warm slices of Smoked No-Knead Bread. Drizzle sauce over pork, top with Fennel Apple Slaw and Fig and Lavender Compote, then devour. (Oh, and be sure to lick your fingers!)

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