Do you have a weakness for a particular food? Something that you simply cannot resist ordering when you see it on the menu? A dish, a dessert, an ingredient, a cut of meat? For us, that weakness is for pork belly. We simply cannot resist it. It is perhaps the perfect cut of meat: layers of delicious melting fat sandwiched between tender slabs of meat, usually without any gristle, and always bursting with flavor and texture. And so versatile! It is just as comfortable sitting decadently on a bed of sauteed apples with a sugary glaze as it is neatly squared off and paired with a fresh arugula purée. It can take hours of braising in a rich stock, or it can be thinly sliced and marinated in a sweet soy mixture for grilling. When I think about some of the best dishes I’ve had out at restaurants, many of them are pork belly. I simply haven’t met a pork belly I didn’t like.
Is there a food or ingredient that you have to order if you see it being served? Let me know in the comments!
This year, we bought a half of a pig from our neighbors Gwen and Fred who raise a couple of pigs a year on their farm out near Goldendale, Washington (more on that in another post). With it came a beautiful hunk of belly. . . something that I’d never cooked at home before. We also were lucky enough to procure a couple gallons of delicious apple cider from our neighbor’s farm as well, and so we were hoping to find a good cider-braised recipe idea to try out on our belly (pun actually not intended). I found the perfect looking recipe in a cookbook called Sizzle in Hell’s Kitchen contributed by Joe Marcus of the West Bank Cafe in New York. The belly is braised in cider, wine, chicken and veal stocks, and vinegar for a few hours, and then served up with a cranberry chutney on a bed of celeriac purée. I think it is one of the best things to have ever come out of our home kitchen.
I’ve modified the original recipe slightly to lengthen the braising time and finish the belly off briefly in the broiler to crisp up the exterior. If you don’t have veal stock, I strongly urge you to give it a try, but you could probably substitute a light beef stock, or just increase the amount of chicken stock (all preferably homemade to control the level of salt). Everything except the salad here can be made ahead of time and reheated before serving.
Cider-Braised Pork Belly with Cranberry Chutney and Apple Frisée Salad
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1½ lbs pork belly
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ c red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup apple cider
- ½ cup veal stock
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- salt to taste
- ½ lb frozen cranberries
- ¾ cups sugar
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 small head celery root, washed, trimmed, and chopped
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup cream
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- salt to taste
Apple Frisée Salad:
- ½ head frisée, yellow part only
- 4 slices Granny Smith Apple, julienned
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pork: Preheat oven to 300˚F. Heat oil on high in a large Dutch oven. Add pork belly and sear until browned on both sides, don’t skimp on the browning step! Take out pork and put it on a plate. Add celery, onion, carrot, garlic, bay, and peppercorns and sweat on medium low until soft, about 6 minutes. Return the pork to the pot, add the red wine and simmer about 6 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients (not the chutney or the puree), bring to a boil, then cover the dutch oven and place it in the oven for 2 to 3 hours. Turn the pork every 45 minutes or so. The liquid should be just barely simmering, so if it’s boiling when you take it out, turn the heat down slightly. When the pork is very tender, remove pork from the liquid and strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Return the sauce to heat on the stovetop and reduce by two-thirds to a nice sauce consistency, skimming as necessary.
Chutney: Place cranberries, sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the liquid evaporates. Cover and set aside.
Celeriac Puree: Place celery root, milk, cream, caraway, and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until celery root is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving about ¼ cup of the liquid, and place the celery root in a blender. Process to a smooth puree, adding some of the milky liquid as necessary.
Salad: Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice, adding a pinch of salt if desired. Mix frisée and apples in a bowl and toss with dressing.
Crisp the Pork: Preheat the broiler. Reheat the chutney and the celeriac puree. If the pork is cold, place it in the reduced cooking liquid and reheat on medium until hot, if it’s still warm inside, don’t bother. Portion the pork belly into 2 to 3 pieces. Place pork on a baking sheet and broil briefly about 3 to 4 inches from the heating element to get the exterior slightly crisp. Be very careful here, you don’t want it to burn. It should only take about a minute before you need to turn it to crisp the other side, so keep a close eye on it. Alternatively, you can sear the pork belly briefly in some hot oil on the stovetop, but I prefer the broiling method.
Plate: Swirl the celeriac puree on warmed individual serving plates and place a generous dollop of chutney on top. Place a portion of pork belly on top. Arrange the frisée salad around each dish and finish with a drizzle of the sauce over the pork belly.
Think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Serves 2 to 3 . . . can be doubled or tripled if desired.