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Roast Pork Belly





Around the same time we had a baby, a couple friends and myself went in on a half a pig from Tails & Trotters. I’ve been taking some heat on my FB page about how there should be more baby pics than pork pigs. I don’t know why people have to hate—it’s an even heat anyway!



For Xmas Eve dinner, I made a pork belly roast from the slightest portion of the vast amount of belly that we got in the share. I followed the procedure from Canal House Cooking Vol. 5, and paired it with roast carrots, and a celeriac remoulade, which was also featured in the cookbook. The whole meal is really easy, and if you already love to eat bacon, this recipe isn’t going to give you any added risk of a massive coronary heart attack. Well, it might. The simplicity of this dish belies the time it takes to prepare. The following is a minimum of time needed, in hours, and by stage, to prepare this pork belly, just so you can plan if you decide to give it a go: 4+1.5+1+2+.25 or almost 9 hours. Of course, this is the kind of thing that you can have ready to go well in advance of a proposed dinner hour, as in days early.







This can be prepared with a piece of pork belly that has the skin still on, or not. I made it with the skin still on, but when I make it again, I’ll probably remove it. I learned that it is better without out it because I wasn’t paying enough attention (Scotch plus ) to the oven during the final stages of cooking and I burnt it to a crisp. When I heated up the remaining portion a few days later, I watched more closely, and the skin did some cool stuff, but it was inconsistent—half of it popped up like a pork rind, but the other half just remained chewy and almost a burden to eat. If you could guarantee that it would all pop up (I’m sure there’s a way. . .) then I’d say leave it on without question. Either way, you want to score the meat into a small-square patchwork as illustrated in the pictures. If you leave the skin on, your knife will have to be extremely sharp!

Ingredient List for the belly: 2 Tbls Sugar, 2 Tbls Kosher Salt, 2 Tbls fresh thyme leaves, 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, 3lb (or less) piece of pork belly, and 1 cup of apple cider.

Combine the first four ingredients, rub it all into the meat, and put the belly into a ziploc bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 250º. Once it has cured for a sufficient amount of time (I let it go for about 4-5 hours), remove it from the bag and rinse it off. Dry with paper towels, then place it into a roasting pan, skin side up, that will fit it snugly. I used my 10″ skillet, because all my roasting pans are enormous. Pour in the cup of apple cider, cover the pan with a lid or tin foil, and roast in the oven for about 1.5 to 2 hours, basting occasionally. Up the heat to 400º and roast for an additional hour. The meat should have a very appetizing golden brown color. Remove it from the oven and wrap it up in tin foil. Place it on a plate, or baking sheet large enough to accommodate the meat, and place a similar sized plate or baking sheet on top of it, weighing it down with something on the heavy side. I used a pyrex filled with dried garbanzo beans from back when I was making quiches on the regs. Let it chill in the refrigerator for as long as you have time to wait. Word is, that you’re supposed to let it chill thoroughly, but I wouldn’t sweat it. The purpose is to let the weight compact the flesh and the fat of the pork belly into a more solid block. It does help in terms of mouth-feel and presentation to a degree, but if you just want to get it going as soon as possible, I’d allow about 2 hours of chill time.







Once it has chilled thoroughly, preheat the oven to 350º, and take the belly and cut it into (reasonably-sized) squares. Heat the individual squares for 15 to 20 minutes. Of my own accord, I decided to hit ’em with the broiler to finish them off. This is where I charred the skin to inedibleness and almost started a Christmas fire via flaming parchment paper (not really. Well, possibly.) But it was OK. In the midst of all the smoke pouring from the oven, I cut off all the char to reveal a fatty layer, and as the baking sheet I was using was covered in a tattered war zone of burnt and fat, I placed the individual pieces into separate spots in a muffin tin and returned them to the broiler. This time I watched more carefully as the fat caramelized under the extreme heat, and pulled them when they reached a rich dark brown.







EXTRAS: To make a delicious sauce, pour off the majority of the fat in the roasting pan that will inevitably have rendered from the belly. The gooey brown bits, and sugary sludge are what you want here. Pour in a cup more of apple cider, bring up to a boil, and all the while scrap up the bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce until it’s a nice syrupy consistency, and reserve.

To make the Celeriac Roumelade: julienne a 1lb celery root bulb. Combine the juice of 2 lemons, 2 Tbls of Dijon mustard, and half a cup of heavy cream. Mix it in with the celery root, and season to taste with salt and pepper. This is a great addition to the dish as the fresh tang of the lemon, and vinegariness of the dijon pairs wonderfully with, and cuts through the rich fattiness of the pork. If not this, then it should be paired with a similar side dish.

Edit: This is a pic of what happened with the piece that I broiled more carefully:







It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between the crisp crunchy skin pieces, and the ones that stay relatively chewy. I’m wondering how to get them all to pop…

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Donnie Brasco Pork Shoulder





I made this a while back when I was mulling over trying to jump-start the blog. It’s the “Donnie Brasco” Pork Shoulder preperation from the River Cottage Meat Book. Some or none of you may recall that I had lost my senses and inexplicably determined that what would be best for me would be to cook a whole cookbook, like the lot of it, recipe by recipe. That ended in a lot of OOOO like Juila chiding rubbish, but that did no bother me a tall. It was just a lot of work, and I didn’t have the dedication, that’s all. I admit it. But still, I cook a recipe from the Meat Book on occasion, like this one here. This is a whole Pork Shoulder, a beauty from Tails & Trotters, that is meant to be slow cooked in the oven for upwards of 24 hours (which is, to spoil the plot for you, way to effing long.)











I decided to make this one because I developed a particular affixation for pork shoulder after the joy of what was and is the Momofuku Ramen Bowl. That is, I like pork shoulder a lot. Enough to make a 10lb roast of it, at that. This was a breeze so I’ll lay it out for you: You rub it down with this 5 spice and other stuff mixture, then put it in a low, low oven for a long long time. After that, you pull it out and eat it.

I started it before I went to bed.







Flipped it right side up before I left for work. (The first 8 hours is supposed to be skin side down.)







And dug into it when I got home. (In truth, I should have just pulled it and broke off a handful then and there before I left for work. It would have been done at that point. The extra 8 hours just proved to dry out a good thick portion of the outer layer, which should have merely been a nice uniform shell, solid and toothsome, yet edible. As prepared, the outer layer had to be discarded because it had become leather and/or burnt––a disappointment. However, the tough, sinewy interior meat had been transformed into such a luxuriously decadent example of the virtues of slow cooking, that at the time I was happy to over-look the disastrous atrocities inflicted on the outer-regions. But thinking back on it now , if I were more rancorous individual (hardly believable–I will bitter you to death!) I would pen a letter of grievance to the good Hugh demanding reparations, for I hate to see good pig go to waste. Maybe he has a google alert, though, yeah? Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall)



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The World Is My Pork Chop

Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops with Garlic







My main culinary victim, Gabrielle, and I have chosen a rather suspect New Year’s Resolution this time around, and many of you may not believe it, what with the promise of this project, but I’ll tell you anyway. Our original plan was to only eat meat once a week, and thus in concert with one of the recipe’s in this book for each week’s meaty meal. However, we have since revised the resolution to include meat once a week at each of the three basic meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which sounds a little more reasonable, but from the perspective of this big ass poke chop in my belly, perhaps still a bit insane. But we’ll see how it goes. My premier recipe post from The River Cottage Meat Book is this wonderful, and really quite simple, pork chop recipe. To be sure, it is actually more of a technique than a recipe; one that works with incredible results. As Hugh writes, “the cheffy phrase for this is pan-roasting,” and it involves searing the meat on both sides for a couple of minutes on the stove-top, and then moving it into a hot oven to finish it off. It works for all kinds of thick cuts of meat, such as ribeye’s, or even whole chicken breast, and works so well because it widens the finish time for the meat a little bit because of the indirect nature of the heat inside the oven.







We are lucky to have a fantastic, relatively young pork producer here in Portland that goes by the name Tails & Trotters. As you can see in the picture above, they produce some pretty intense chops, and most of the other cuts I’ve seen from their operation have been equally exciting. The owner’s of the company, Aaron Silverman and Morgan Brownlow, started the venture with the intention of growing a superior animal in order to produce a high quality Northwest prosciutto, which I do not think is available for sale yet, but am eagerly anticipating. I am only just beginning to understand the thought and methods one has to devise in order to grow pigs (and all other meat producing animals, i’m sure) a certain way, and to a specific criteria, so I won’t try to explain any of the details quite yet. However, I will note that Tails & Trotters finishes, meaning to fatten-up before harvesting, their hogs with a heavy diet of hazelnuts, thus creating the beautiful, and actually quite healthy in moderation, fatty layers necessary for their prosciutto purposes. I hope to learn more about this company, and pork production in the months to come. In the meantime, this blog will certainly see the use of more Tails & Trotters pork!



To cook the chops, you will need a ton of garlic, 1 cup of white wine or hard cider, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Preheat the oven to around 425 with an empty pan in there large enough to hold the chops, but small enough to prop up the fatty sides from out of the bottom. Very Important: Don’t forget that that pan is hot later on. In fact, never forget that anything coming out of the oven will be extremely hot. It happens, so I’m just reminding ya’ll. I’ve been burnt like that, and I know I’m not alone.Meanwhile, break apart a few heads of garlic, leaving the cloves in the skin. The book calls for 1 large head, or two small heads, but I recommend two or three times as much as that, as there never seems to be enough garlic to go around, and I’m talking about how there’s only two of us at the table, so if there were three or more peeps then you’d definitely want to up the garlic. Lightly crush the cloves under a knife, just enough to crack the skins, not to flatten them out-right. Heat up some Olive oil at medium, to medium-high heat in a pan large enough to accommodate the entirety of the chops flatly on the surface. Once the oil is sufficiently hot, throw in the garlic and toss it a round for a minute or so, then salt and pepper one side of the chops, move the garlic into a pile, and fit the chops into the pan. While the first side browns, salt and pepper the other side, and after a minute or two, flip the chops over, and brown the other side. Remove the hot pan from the oven and arrange the chops and garlic into it so that the fatty ends are up out of the bottom. This is to allow the heat in the oven to crisp up and caramelize the fat. Then, up the heat all the way in the original pan, pour in one cup of the white wine or hard cider, and scrap up all the brown bits and so on, and allow the liquid to reduce by about half. This is called deglazing, and it’s a cornerstone of sauce-making. Once the liquid has reduced, pour it over the chops, and into the oven they go. Allow to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, but never longer than 20, and that’s a wrap on the chops. The deglazed sauce will thicken up and blend with the pork fat and garlic, and act as a braise for the chops, ensuring that they won’t dry out even a bit. The garlic easily pops out their skins, and are nice and roasted, and as i noted before, there are never enough of these tasty, decadent morsels. Gabrielle says that these pork chops speak for themselves, and they do, yes they do.







I served the chops with braised cabbage and simple boiled potatoes. To make the Cabbage you will need a whole red or green cabbage, an onion, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, and an apple. Take the cabbage, cut it in half and core it. Then, slice it as thinly as possible. Do the same with the onion. Heat some sort of oil or (duck ) fat in a large pot or dutch oven, and cook the onion for about 5 minutes or so. Add the cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, the vinegar, and a half cup of water. If the cabbage doesn’t fit all at once, add it batches by allowing it to cook down for a few minutes. Once it is all in the pot, cover it and turn the heat down, and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Take the apple, peal and grate it, and once the cabbage has braised for the alloted time mix it into the cabbage, and allow to cook for an addition 5 minutes. That’s the cabbage. It’s from Chez Panisse Vegetables.

Next up, after I recover from this pork chop, I am planning to do the Provençal Daube recipe, which is basically a light beef stew. In other words, it is another of the somewhat less adventurous recipes in the book. But just so you know, I’m only doing these ones to get warmed up–expect brains and a whole pig’s head in the future!



Resources: Pork Chops produced by Tails & Trotters and purchased at Laurelhurst Market, garlic and Samuel Smith Organic Cider from Pastaworks, Cabbage, Onion, Apple from Limbo, and Potatoes from Trader Joe’s

Link to Recipe Only blog.