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Pork Belly


Choirgirl21
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I'm subbing pork belly in for a rib roast in a dish I'm making for a modern Italian themed dinner club tomorrow night and I'm trying to finalize how I'm going to cook it and when. I was thinking I would braise the belly for a few hours and then just crisp up the fat side (the rind has already been removed from mine) right before serving. The dish is the pork belly topped with a fried egg (I'm going to use quail eggs for size) with a salad of frisee, gorgonzola, lardons, and pickled onions w/a gorgonzola vinaigrette.

Some things I'm not sure about. I've read about braising the belly and then weighting it down overnight to compress it. I'm not sure if this is really a necessary step. I wouldn't mind braising the belly tonight just to have one less thing to do tomorrow, which would facilitate this, but then I'm not sure about heating the belly up before crisping it tomorrow. Would I save the braising liquid and reheat it in the oven, or would bringing it to room temp and then pan-frying be sufficient? I think I'd want to reheat a little in the oven at least.

The other thing about braising tonight though is that I was going to rub the belly with ground fennel and maybe some coriander and let it sit overnight. It's also still partially frozen although by the time I get to it tonight it may be completely defrosted. That may be what decides it for me.

Actually, what I may do is rub it and leave it overnight, braise it first thing in the morning and then let it compress throughout the afternoon.

Anyway, thoughts? What's your favorite method for cooking belly?

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No need to braise it, the fat will turn it into a lovely confit all on its own. I recently made an entire pork belly by scoring the skin, then rubbing it with a combination of herbs, spices, garlic, and salt. I then roasted it at 225 for 18 hours. I had planned on 24, but it was already done at 18. I then removed it, cut it into usable chunks, vacuum sealed all but that night's portion. There was so much fat in the meat and on the skin that I just put the pieces in a hot pan and crisped it up.

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Some things I'm not sure about. I've read about braising the belly and then weighting it down overnight to compress it. I'm not sure if this is really a necessary step. I wouldn't mind braising the belly tonight just to have one less thing to do tomorrow, which would facilitate this, but then I'm not sure about heating the belly up before crisping it tomorrow. Would I save the braising liquid and reheat it in the oven, or would bringing it to room temp and then pan-frying be sufficient? I think I'd want to reheat a little in the oven at least.

...

Anyway, thoughts? What's your favorite method for cooking belly?

I'm not sure I'd bother with the compression step....braised belly for me is best when it's not too dense. My vote goes for reheating in the braise liquid, then pan-searing. The advantage is that the braise liquid will then be hot, and you can strain and reduce if you want to try making a sauce (enhanced with a roux or cream).

And my favorite method for belly is confit. So rich, so good.

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Where is a good place to source pork belly in suburban MD?
The Korean place farthest from the main artery through Rockville (vs. the one w sign visible as you're driving through). Is that Kam Sam?

* * *

I am a fan of the recipe for red-cooked pork belly in All About Braising by Molly Stevens.

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If you care about buying local/humanely-raised pork, which can be very difficult to find, I recommend ForestFed Pigs. It's where I got my belly and to boot it is the BEST tasting pork I have ever had, I mean phenomenal. He delivers periodically to Silver Spring.

I ended up rubbing my belly with a rub of salt, pepper, and about equal parts of coriander and fennel that I lightly toasted and then ground and left that on overnight. The following morning I seared it, then deglazed the pan with white wine. Cooked carrot, celery and onion in that liquid until just tender, then added several cups of homemade chicken stock and a sprig of thyme, poured it over the seared belly and roasted it for about 3 hours. There was enough roasting liquid to immerse about 2/3 of the meat, but the fat side on top stayed out of the liquid so it got nice and crisp. When it was done, I pulled the pieces of belly out, skimmed the fat off the liquid and reduced it. When it was time for dinner, I reheated the belly in the oven at 325-350 and rewarmed the sauce on the stove. Each piece of belly got just a bit of sauce and a quail egg on top. I have to say, it was phenomenal. Everyone raved about it. I would attribute most of that to the quality of the meat, but the cooking method also worked out really well. A friend who had cooked the same belly (we split a whole one) said it was how he'd hoped his would turn out and wanted to know what I had done. I think the trick was keeping the fat side out of the liquid.

Thanks to those who gave input. I have belly left so I will probably experiment with some of your other suggestions next time.

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I ended up rubbing my belly with a rub of salt, pepper, and about equal parts of coriander and fennel that I lightly toasted and then ground and left that on overnight. The following morning I seared it, then deglazed the pan with white wine. Cooked carrot, celery and onion in that liquid until just tender, then added several cups of homemade chicken stock and a sprig of thyme, poured it over the seared belly and roasted it for about 3 hours. There was enough roasting liquid to immerse about 2/3 of the meat, but the fat side on top stayed out of the liquid so it got nice and crisp. When it was done, I pulled the pieces of belly out, skimmed the fat off the liquid and reduced it. When it was time for dinner, I reheated the belly in the oven at 325-350 and rewarmed the sauce on the stove. Each piece of belly got just a bit of sauce and a quail egg on top. I have to say, it was phenomenal. Everyone raved about it. I would attribute most of that to the quality of the meat, but the cooking method also worked out really well. A friend who had cooked the same belly (we split a whole one) said it was how he'd hoped his would turn out and wanted to know what I had done. I think the trick was keeping the fat side out of the liquid.

Your pork belly sounds delicious. I'm probably being a bit pedantic here, but the cooking method you employed is braising, not roasting. Braising is cooking something partially submerged in liquid, whether it is in the oven or on top of the stove. Roasting is cooking something by surrounding it with heated air in an oven. Carry on! :lol:

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Your pork belly sounds delicious. I'm probably being a bit pedantic here, but the cooking method you employed is braising, not roasting. Braising is cooking something partially submerged in liquid, whether it is in the oven or on top of the stove. Roasting is cooking something by surrounding it with heated air in an oven. Carry on! :lol:

When I read this I thought you must have misread my post because I know the difference, but you're right, I said roasting! :)

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Could you make PULLED pork belly?

"Pulling" means to separate cooked meat from its bones and then shred it by hand. A pork belly is already boneless before it is cooked, but if it were meaty enough, one could shred the meat--just not sure how the fatty portions would respond, or how appealing the texture would be, however. Why would you want to? To make a sandwich with it, you could slice it, or even chop it. What's pushing you to pull it?

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"Pulling" means to separate cooked meat from its bones and then shred it by hand. A pork belly is already boneless before it is cooked, but if it were meaty enough, one could shred the meat--just not sure how the fatty portions would respond, or how appealing the texture would be, however. Why would you want to? To make a sandwich with it, you could slice it, or even chop it. What's pushing you to pull it?

I have some cured pork belly in the fridge that I was going to smoke and slice into bacon, but thought about something different I might be able to do.

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So here's a weird one. The belly's done and, for some reason, has a weird, slightly bitter aftertaste. Any ideas what it could be?

Pertinent facts:

1) Cured with my standard bacon cure of pink salt, salt, and maple syrup.

2) Also added to the cure was, because it was sitting there and I thought, "why not?", some soy sauce.

3) The belly was cured for about ten days (longer than my usual seven - I forgot it was in the fridge).

4) The belly was smoked oven hickory wood at 250(f) for about four hours to 150(f) internal.

Items 2 and 3 deviate from my usual pork belly MO... could one of them be the culprit?

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As a non-expert in pork belly, my only thought is maybe the extra curing time. I can't see soy sauce making it bitter, just maybe too salty.

We're currently doing a recipe per weekend from Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home," and this weekend's recipe is the braised pork belly - brining, braising, pressing, and more braising. Btw, the brine recipe is simple but amazing, it made the whole house smell wonderful.

Since the Keller recipe is a 3-day affair, we brined/braised today, are pressing tonight, and are braising/eating tomorrow. Will report back. (If someone else has made this, please tell me it's wonderful...)

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So here's a weird one. The belly's done and, for some reason, has a weird, slightly bitter aftertaste. Any ideas what it could be?

Pertinent facts:

1) Cured with my standard bacon cure of pink salt, salt, and maple syrup.

2) Also added to the cure was, because it was sitting there and I thought, "why not?", some soy sauce.

3) The belly was cured for about ten days (longer than my usual seven - I forgot it was in the fridge).

4) The belly was smoked oven hickory wood at 250(f) for about four hours to 150(f) internal.

Items 2 and 3 deviate from my usual pork belly MO... could one of them be the culprit?

what kind of soy sauce

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Since the Keller recipe is a 3-day affair, we brined/braised today, are pressing tonight, and are braising/eating tomorrow. Will report back. (If someone else has made this, please tell me it's wonderful...)

I made it a few weeks ago. I ran into some trouble with the searing step b/c my belly had skin and I had a heckuva' time removing it and I didn't have enough liquid left for the second braising so I just rewarmed in the oven in the juices that were left, but it was still delicious. My friend was so enamored of it, he refused to order pork belly in a restaurant later that weekend b/c "nothing would stack up" to the one I made. I take absolutely no credit for that. The more often I make it, the more often I think pork belly is ridiculously difficult to screw up for anyone with half a brain (present company excluded :lol: ). Get it locally from a heritage breed, season it well, and make sure it's cooked long enough and it's likely to impress most.

I served it with some lentils cooked in chk stock further enhanced with "stock veg" (carrots, celery, onion, herbs, garlic, etc.) and a salad of baby kale (raw) with a citrus champagne vinaigrette. I was a little unsure of what to pair it with initially, but was pleased with the dish in the end.

How did yours turn out?

BTW, I love that you're cooking your way through Ad Hoc. I borrowed it from a friend for inspiration as I was doing a multi-course meal for a friend in town, but I want to get my own copy now. What's your experience been with the other dishes you've made so far?

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Pork belly has been a controversial topic of late for my dining companions, the issue being what is an appropriate ratio of fat to meat?

Several of my friends, especially those who are asian, are used more to a ratio similar to bacon: 50/50 or perhaps a bit more meat than fat.

But lately, we've frequented different restaurants where the quality of the ingredients are excellent, but the pork belly is almost entirely fat with very very little meat. At one venue, a friend, when asked by the server if everything was ok, expressed that he felt the pork belly was too fatty. This led to the manager visiting and defending the pork belly, saying the fat was the best part but that he'd bring over a leaner portion.

Interested to hear any take on this.  We've had pork bellies braised, roasted, simmered, etc. and we've seen this dynamic no matter what technique is used.

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The first time I ordered pork belly was at Hearth in NYC, I'm not sure how many years ago (mid-2000's sometime).  There was so much fat not only could I not eat much of it, but it turned me off from eating it again for quite a while.  That's a very good restaurant, so I figured they knew how to prepare it properly, and the rest of the meal was good.  Years passed before I realized that not all pork belly has that much fat and tried some that was meatier.  I'm not opposed to fat, but something like a 50/50 ratio, where there is actually identifiable meat, is much more to my liking.

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The ratio is also affected by the breed of the pig.  Berkshire & Duroc tend to be meatier.  THe small end is meatier than the thick end.  Ossabaw and Mangalitsa have much more fat.  Mangalitsa is described as a lard pig, so it is not surprising that its belly is more fat than lean.  

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Those excessively fatty cuts from heirloom lard pigs are gas lamp novelties in the fiber optic age.  Most heritage breeds have disappeared during modernization, for good reason,  because we have refrigeration (don't need to pack food in lard), non-stick pans (don't' need to fry in lard) and readily available cheap calories (don't need to supplement food with lard).

A fat pig is much different than a marbled pig.  The best marbled hogs (8+ on a scale of 1-10) often get exported to Japan.  All the other unmentionable bits go to china.

I was delivered an Old Spot Gloucester a few years back from a farmer who was very excited about breeding what he billed as an all but forgotten heritage breed.  He was less enthusiastic when I told him that I wasn't in the business of making soap and that if his pig were an orange it would be 65-70% pith. I consulted with 2 PhD directors of animal science at U of Iowa pork study and they thought the following picture was photoshoped.  Duroc and Berkshire are the most studied of the mainstream hogs but there are quite a few "Berkshire" on menus in DC that are actually white Yorkshires grown indoors in PA and have never seen the light of day other than the trip to slaughter.  Top quality (marbling and color) pure bred (100%) Berkshires are very expensive and quite rare.  The best I've seen (Craig Hagaman, High View Farm; Berryville VA) cost $5/lb ($1000 for the whole creature) and was absolutely flawless.

13530983883_88d7196cf7.jpg

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