Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pork Belly

Today was interesting. I saw a post from a friend on Facebook about her upcoming cooking of a pork belly. Anytime I hear the word or think about that cut of meat I instantly get excited. So I dropped her a line offering up a recipe.

I didn't think much about it at all after that. But then she called me out of the blue today. She is a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and was doing an article on Pork Belly. She asked if she could interview me and if I would be willing to offer that recipe for the SacBee. Surely, sounds great!

She performed an interview over the phone regarding the precious meat that I love so much. It got me really thinking, how can I express why this meat is so special. For me several reasons. First off I really love pork. I love that it is a cheap meat that is so amazing to cook with. I love that it is not glorified the way that steak is. The way that the meat takes on the flavors of the components of a dish is magical. Myself, I am a bit of a sweet freak. I love that pork pairs so well with sweet elements.

Growing up we ate a lot of pork; Christmas, Thanksgiving, Religious Holidays. You name it. My grandmother made the most amazing sweet gravy that paired with either the whole roasted pig, which we did frequently, or the roast which we prepared for smaller groups. I think this is where my love comes from.

The right pork, raised by the right farmer has the perfect amount of fat. Good fat. Fat that transfers the natural flavor of the meat to the palate. Pork belly is the premium example of that. Depending on the piece you get, it could be as much as 80 percent fat in a single bite. I try to trim it up to about a 50/50 ratio.

The fat however is the best part some would say. It is what makes the outside so very crispy and crunchy when rendered correctly. Cooked by braising, or even better by sous vide at a very low temperature over a very long period of time, the fat and collogen slowly breaks down and begins to melt if you will. So when you take a bite you have a super succulent and moist piece of meat with the perfect crispy exterior in every bite. Perfection.

Here is the recipe that I shared with the Bee. Enjoy!

Kurobuta Pork Belly

One of the most succulent cuts of meat, the pork belly is amazing when braised or cooked slowly. Pork belly is a slab of bacon, which is raw, uncured. We cure it our self, then cook it sous vide for 12 hours until meltingly tender. We finish by crisping it in a pan and glazing with the cooking liquid from sous vide bag. You can order this from Vande Rose meat market in the Quarry Ponds in Granite Bay, or from your local butcher. Much of this recipe can be done a few days in advance!

3 cups ice water
¼ cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ honey
1 cup cold apple cider
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
4 T peppercorns
2 T Dijon mustard
1 bunch lemon thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 yellow onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic
2 carrot, peeled and cut 1”

Bring ½ cup water, salt, honey and sugar to boil until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in mustard, herbs, peppercorns, onion, garlic and carrot. Pour liquid into remaining ice water in large container. Add the pork belly and make sure it covers the belly completely. Add remaining ingredients. You can weight down the with plates or pans to ensure full coverage. Leave for 6-7 hours in cure in refrigerator.

To braise the belly:
1 cured pork belly (snake river farms) trimmed of excessive fat
2 yellow onions quartered
2 head garlic smashed
2 green apples cut 1”
1 bunch lemon thyme
1 bunch parsley
2 bay leaves
3 carrots peeled and cut 2”
1 cup white wine
1 cup apple cider
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups veal stock
12 peppercorns

Heat a pan with canola oil large enough to hold all ingredients. Sauté pork on all sides until slightly browned. Remove pork from pan and sauté carrots for 2 minutes, then add onions & garlic and apple for 2 more minutes. Then deglaze pan with wine and vinegar. Reduce by half, then add pork and remaining ingredients. Cook in 280* degree oven for 6 hours. Let cool in liquid until you can handle the meat. Remove meat from juices and place in Pyrex dish. Strain the braising liquid into a clean bowl. Cover the pork with enough liquid to cover, place a second Pyrex dish on top of the meat and weight down with a heavy pot. Refrigerate over night. Reduce remaining braising liquid to about 1 cup, strain and reserve.

Cider Reduction

½ cup sauvignon Blanc
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 cup apple cider
1 cup veal stock
2 T diced shallot
1 t garlic diced
2 sprig lemon thyme
2 peppercorns
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
2” carrots peeled
2 T butter cold

Heat pan and add wine, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme & carrots. Bring to boil then simmer until almost liquid is almost gone. Add apple cider and reduce until almost all liquid is gone again. Add veal stock and peppercorns and simmer until reduced by 2/3. Strain into a clean saucepan. Reduce over low heat until it has a thick syrup consistency, then whisk in butter one piece at a time to emulsify. Add cider vinegar and whole grain mustard at last minute. Keep warm or refrigerate overnight.

Pickled Pearl Onion

20 pearl onions, peeled
1 cup water
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Combine sugar, water and both vinegars in pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour directly over the pearl onions and stir in the salt. Cool at room temperature. Reserve in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Vanilla Apple Puree

Poaching Liquid
6 apples peeled, cored and cut into 1” pieces
2 cups sauvignon blanc
1.5 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 lemon juiced
2 cloves
3 T champagne vinegar
1 vanilla bean, seeds & pod

To Finish Puree
2 tablespoons honey
champagne vinegar
2 vanilla bean seeds scraped
½ t cinnamon
¼ t ginger
½ cup cream +/-
6T butter
salt to taste

Prepare poaching liquid. Bring wine & vinegar to boil and then add sugar, honey, cloves and water. Remove from heat once sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice.

Place all apples in poaching liquid with 1 vanilla bean. Poach apples gently over simmer until soft but not mushy. Remove from liquid and add apples to blender with enough of the liquid to just puree. You are trying to achieve a very thick consistency.

Add the butter, and enough cream to achieve the consistency of a smooth mashed potato. Add remaining ingredients to taste. Reserve under refrigeration or use immediately while warm.

Apple Celery Salad:

2 green apples, peeled and cored
Celery Leaves or Micro Celery
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Place the shallot, Dijon mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Cut the apples into matchsticks 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. Place the apple slices in the vinaigrette. Toss with the celery leaves and taste for seasoning. Do this immediately before plating.

To Finish at service:
Warm the apple vanilla puree in a saucepot until warm. Keep warm.

Reduce the braising liquid to about ¼ cup then whisk in the cider reduction. Keep warm.

Remove the pork from the refrigerator. Reserve the cooking fluid in the bag, or a bit of the braising liquid to glaze the meat. Trim any excess fat, leaving some at the top to crisp nicely. Cut into the desired shapes. Add the pieces to a cold pan and place over medium heat to cook. Once crisp and brown, turn over. Cook both sides until crisp and warm, then add the fluid to the pan and let reduce, basting the meat to glaze. Serve over the vanilla apple puree, spoon some sauce along side, and top with the salad. Place a pickled onion along side.



Chef JP said...

She interviewed me for the same article too Pajo! -JP

Anonymous said...

At what temperature do you recommend cooking the pork belly sous vide? And for how long?

Pajo's Boutique Catering said...

For sous vide I generally cook at 80 degrees celcius for 12 hours, or 40 degrees for 24 hours.

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