Friday, October 23, 2009

Slow Food

I placed an order for a pork belly (half, really) and it weighed in at 11 pounds. It's hard to tell in the picture, but it's at least two inches thick- more in places. I cut it into two large pieces that would just fit in the two biggest vessels I could stack in the fridge, and rubbed it well with miso, ume paste, maple syrup, and a bunch of spices. There it sits, slowly absorbing umamitude and gorgeousness. I'll smoke it this weekend, then bag and freeze it in roughly one-pound hunks. It will nurture and protect us all winter.

The was one little piece- maybe 2/3 lb.- from the end that wouldn't fit, so I packed it in salt, sugar, curry and spice powders, and toasted seeds (fennel, coriander, pepper, mustard, fenugreek) and it sat for about 4 days. This morning I rinsed it off and put it in a pot, covering it with a quart of turkey phở left from the Thanksgiving shoot (there are three more quarts in the freezer) and some apple cider. I also threw in a thumb of ginger, smashed garlic, cardamom, raisins, and a kaffir lime leaf. I brought it up to a bare simmer, then put it into an 180˚ F oven for six hours.

Towards the end of that time, I made dal with red lentils, onion, spices, and water. I chopped a nice head of pak choi and gave it a two-part braise with garlic and lemon juice: the white stalks cooked for about 20 minutes until they were nice and soft, and the greens went in just before the end so they'd stay bright. I pulled the meat out and strained the liquid into another pot. I cut the belly into hunks, and seared around the sides of the pieces in a little bit of duck fat until they were brown and crisp. A ladle of lentils, a spoon of broth, a nestled belly cube, and a few raisins. Cilantro for color and treble.

Woah. The similar spices in all the components got all kinds of busy in this bowl. Just the liquid- leaving aside the heavenly fat belly- was amazing. The multiple layers of flavor in there were pretty sublime, and combined with the earthy lentils and (here's a word I hate, but it fits) succulent meat it was ridiculous. Versions of this will henceforth be a standard until spring summer forever. A bottle of good Spätlese Riesling would have really gone beautifully with this, but we didn't have any.


cookiecrumb said...

That is one HUNK of pig muscle!
(Do you not have my phone number? Jeesh.)

Brooke said...

That looks succulent. Yeah, I hate that word too. It sounds dirty to me, but it does fit in this situation.

You have made me wish for a whole pig.

them apples said...

Pork belly is vastly under-rated. With some care, attention and a long, slow roast, it is just the most magnificent cut of meat.

It's very suited to the application of souteast asian and Chinese flavours and seasoning. Chinese five spice powder, liberally sprinkled over and massaged in, left to do it's magic for a few hours before a slow roast is absolutly magnificent.

peter said...

CC: I do not.

Brooke: Do yourself a favor and buy a chest freezer first.

Apples: Right you are. Five-spice was MADE for pork belly.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

You had me at, "11 pounds of pork belly". That's a beautiful dish with a beautiful ingredient.

Zoomie said...

How do you find time to do your painting when you make such complex meals?

We Are Never Full said...

i want to smoke that pork belly too, if ya know what i mean.



Brittany said...

mmm. bacon.
Pork belly just makes the world a better place.
And now I'm dying to try it all Asian-ed out.
Five spice....intriguing.

Miss jane said...


日月神教-向左使 said...