Pork belly recipes

Aug 6, 2008 at 11:33 a.m. ET

A deliciously unctuous piece of pork belly is to die for - it is simply divine. It is meltingly tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. If you haven't yet had the good fortune to try pork belly, pick some up on your next trip to the supermarket - you will wonder why you waited so long to do it.

Pork Belly

Better than bacon

It is no surprise if you have never heard of or tried pork belly. It has been around in the chef world for years, but not so much for home cooks. However, don't be intimidated – once you try pork belly, you will be fervently hooked.

Pork belly is really just bacon in a different form. Though it is fatty, it is this fat that makes it so succulently delicious. The combination of fat with the crispy skin gives it an unparalleled melt in your mouth quality, yet, this sumptuous treat still has the distinctive bacon attributes that you know and love.

Served seared or braised, pork belly is (in some circles) better than bacon. Hundreds of chefs across the country are putting pork belly on their menus as homage to rediscovering older and underused cuts of meat. Offal meats such as belly, tripe, and sweetbreads, once popular, are slowly but surely making their way back into everyday cuisine. Starting with pork belly is a good way to get the feel for these fattier, more succulent cuts of meat.

If you are nervous to order pork belly in a restaurant, try making it at home. You will be glad you did.

Succulent Pork Belly Recipes

Braised Pork Belly

Makes 8 servings

1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1 clove
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 pork belly (about 6 pounds), fat trimmed to 3/4-inch

2 quarts water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
2 quarts ice cold water

6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock or water

1. Grind spices for the rub in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Toast them lightly in a skillet over medium-high heat. Score the fat side of the pork belly with a knife. Rub spices all over the pork and let it sit covered in a dish in the refrigerator overnight.

2. For the brine, heat water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Mix in salt, sugar, and bay leaves, heating until salt and sugar dissolve. Pour in 2 quarts of ice water. Place the rubbed belly in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in the brine, seal the bag and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Take the belly out of the brine and pat it dry. Let it warm to room temperature. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sear the pork belly 3 minutes per side or just until the outside is browned. Add the vegetables, wine and stock or water. Bring to a slight simmer, then move Dutch oven to the oven and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until pork is very tender.

4. Take pork belly from the oven and move it to a serving platter in a warm place. Save pan juices, but skim out all visible fat. Add a bit more wine and water or stock to pan juices and then reduce over medium-high heat until desired consistency. Season to taste. Spoon juice over pork belly.

Crispy Pork Belly

Makes 8 servings

1/2 pork belly (about 6 pounds)
1 quart water or chicken stock
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 clove garlic bruised
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 stick lemon grass bruised

1. Combine pork, water, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, garlic, peppercorns, five-spice powder and lemon grass in a pot. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Let fully cool.

2. Preheat oven to 500 degree F. Slice pork belly in half lengthwise and then into very thin strips, across the grain. Arrange pork in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook in oven 15 to 20 minutes or until brown and crispy. Lay on paper towels to drain.

Serving suggestion: serve crispy pork belly on an Asian style salad with a light dressing.

Citrus Glazed Pork Belly

Makes 5 servings

4 pounds pork belly, cut into 4x3-inch portions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice

2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup sugar

1. Set oven to broil. Score the fat side of the pork belly with a knife. Rub the salt and pepper onto the pork.

2. Add onions, carrots and celery to a large roasting pan and top with pork belly, scored side up. Broil in oven about 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Flip belly and broil another 5 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Flip pork back over and add chicken stock, 2 cups of orange juice, brown sugar, thyme, cloves and allspice to the pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 2 hours. After 2 hours, vent foil and bake another 2 hours, until tender.

4. Meanwhile, prepare glaze. Combine juice and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and heat until glaze is thick, about 30 to 40 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and let pork cool for 10 minutes.

5. Heat oven to broil. Take pork belly out of pan and pat dry. Using a brush, coat pork belly with glaze and move belly to a baking sheet in a single layer. Broil 4 to 5 minutes or until crispy. Remove pork belly from oven and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with remaining glaze and serve.

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