This past weekend was the first proper summer-like weekend we have had in TO this year. There have been some nice sunny weekends but still with a bite in the air, this weekend was beautiful. When I first saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, knowing that we were heading up north and that the weather was supposed to be ideal I knew we had to make it. First because it feeds 8 and there is usually about that many people there when we visit and also because it just sounded so delectable and perfect that I couldn't wait more than a few day to test it out. I've been wanting to work with pork belly for awhile, specifically I'd love to make my own bacon, but I was willing to bypass that experiment for this recipe. I sent it along to the boy and being a lover of all things pork he was immediately on board. So, I called my local butcher and ordered a 4 pound pork belly for pick-up on Friday and started to make a grocery list for the weekend. Friday rolled around and the boy went to pick up the meat, only to find out that the butcher didn't receive any of it's pork delivery for the weekend, major bummer for more than just us. While he was there the boy asked what exactly pork belly is (I had "forgotten" to mention to him that it is essentially bacon), well when he found that out he wasn't letting us head north without having this delicious slab of meat. After a quick Google search of "Toronto Butchers" and 20 or so calls later and he managed to find a small butcher shop that had pork belly with the skin. It's amazing how driven he can be when it comes to meat! We of course get to the cottage to find there will only be four of us with a huge hunk a meat, but at least we got it!
Crisp & Unctious Pork Belly
from the New York Times
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
10 cloves garlic - peeled and halved
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 Tbsp sliced serrano pepper (our store didn't have serranos so we used yellow hots which have a similar heat rating)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 4-pound piece of pork belly - skin on
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley - roughly chopped
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp chives, chopped
salt & freshly ground pepper
1. In a blender, pulse marinade ingredients until roughly chopped. Transfer to a 1-gallon freezer bag and add pork belly and 1 cup water. Squeeze to remove air, then seal and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 275 degrees. Place pork in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with marinade, butter and water to cover. Cover with heavy-duty foil, crimping edges tightly. Braise in oven 5 1/2 hours; let rest in pan, covered, 2 hours.
3. Meanwhile, simmer bourbon in a small pan over medium heat until alcohol aroma fades. Stir in sugar, parsley, vinegar and pepper flakes. Cover and set aside.
4. Heat a grill. Carefully remove pork from pan and place in a grilling basket. Grill skin-side down over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until skin is crisp and golden. Remove from heat and brush skin side with 1/4 of the bourbon glaze, then return to heat, skin-side up, for another 5 minutes. Remove pork from heat once more and brush meat side with 1/4 of the glaze, then return to heat, meat-side up, for another 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining glaze on both sides.
5. Dress a cutting board with half the olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Place pork skin side up on cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Cut into 1-by-4-inch pieces and serve.
Now none of us had ever had pork belly and really didn't know what to expect, but this was delicious and so worth the whole day it took to marinate and cook. The meat just fell apart and was so juicy, tender and flavorful four of us finished a piece of meat that should serve 8! So much for leftovers, I loved how the flavors were layered from the marinade to the glaze to even the final step of dressing the cutting board and sprinkling the meat with spices as it rested. In each bite we could taste every flavor from the spicy to the sweet glaze to the freshness of the lemon. Delish! Do yourself a favor and make this sometime soon. Enjoy!