A few weeks ago, I took the awesome pig butchering class at the Brooklyn Kitchen with my boyfriend,
Andrew. The class is great – not only is butcher Tom Mylan hilarious, at the end of it you come home with about 6 pounds of locally-grown, custom-butchered pork! Between the two of us we snagged a tenderloin, pork chops enough to feed four, and a shoulder that will be great for stew. But the crowning glory of our haul, hands down, was a 3-lb. hunk of pork belly.
I love pork belly (and, let’s be serious, bacon — I once consumed 13 slices in one go at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, much to my father’s horror), and there are many ways to cook it. David Chang uses it in his ridiculously good pork buns. Tom Colicchio apparently uses it to make a burger. Epicurious suggests you use it as a subsitute for pancetta in a spaghetti carbonara (I suggest you get to the gym immediately thereafter). I had never cooked it before, so I asked a particularly confident (and talkative — I imagine other people in the class had recipes of their own, but none offered them up as readily as this guy) co-butcher for his recipe, and came away from the class with a Colombian campesino recipe that required little more than simmering the meat in its own fat on the stove.
I was all ready to make this simple, tasty dish, when Andrew took the brazen step of inviting some foodie friends over for a pork-themed dinner party — belly, chops, and a fancy bottle of wine were on the menu. The campesinos weren’t going to cut it. Inspired by a recent trip to Stone Barns, I decided to try my hand at Dan Barber’s pork belly recipe.
Cured and Slow-Roasted Pork Belly
Adapted from Dan Barber
Ingredients for cure mix:
- 1/4 cup fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 8 teaspoons peppercorns (I ended up using talicherry peppercorns, because that’s what we had in our spice cabinet, but the recipe called for both black and white peppercorns.)
- 4 pieces star anise
- several dashes ground cinnamon
- 1 cup salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
When I started curing the pork, I did not have all of these elements. I mixed together the salt, sugar, peppercorns, cumin, and cinnamon, which I had in stock, and rubbed the meat with it, placing it in a baking dish in the refridgerator and covering it with aluminum foil. A few hours later, I ran to the Park Slope Food Coop and picked up everything else. I pulled the pork out of the fridge and added my new ingredients. Though this was a pretty unorthodox move, I liked the result — the flavors of the added ingredients are inherently strong, and I think they would’ve been overpowering if the pork had entirely cured with them. The one drawback was that the flavors were distributed a bit unevenly.
- Rub the pork belly with the dry cure and refrigerate for one and a half days. The original recipe called for three days curing, but I was short on time. One and a half was plenty to impart flavor.
- Rinse the pork belly and place in a casserole pan as close to the size of the belly as possible. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Cover belly with rich chicken stock (I made mine out of chicken bullion) and cover pan. Place in oven and cook overnight, about 8 hours. The recipe said to cook it for 7 hours, but I had a pan that was too big and no cover, so I left the belly in for longer to compensate.
- Remove belly from braising liquid, drain, and cut into serving pieces. To serve, sear the fat side of the belly until crispy. I cooked this with the skin on, and I forgot to score the skin before cooking. I ended up cutting it off and searing it separately as cracklin’, and searing the skinless belly as instructed.
Enjoy! In the photo, the pork belly is plated with the chop and cracklin’. The belly is the dark piece of meat in the upper right corner of the plate.