Pork Belly was unfamiliar territory for me as a cook. I have eaten it many times in restaurants but never ventured to make it myself. It always seemed like something only a professional cook should try. But the 3 for £10 deals on Waitrose helped me push through my fear, because why not give it a try and see how it goes.
It's in these moments that Chef Thomas Keller usually saves me from disaster, and this instance is no different. I read up on Keller's recipe for braised pork belly and my main take-away was that making pork belly is not difficult, but it takes time. You do something simple and wait a few hours, and then do something else easy, and wait a while, and then do one other thing and then also wait. So yeah, if you aren't into dinner taking a long time, that's cool. For the rest of us, plan a nice dinner, make yourself a cheese plate, and savor the amazing results when they roll in.
Keller's recipes starts with a brine, which is very salty water with some spices in it that you immerse the meat in. Keller swears by it, and the only word I have to say on the brine is that the pork belly had amazing flavor, so I would do it again. You def need a big bowl and some shelf space in your fridge for this step, but other than that, this part requires no stress.
The braising part is also very easy. You put the pork fat side down and just cook in liquid on low heat for about 2 hours. Then the final very easy part, wrap the belly in saran or tin foil, place under a plate and put something heavy on the plate. Then put back in the fridge for another few hours. Keller said that compresses the fat and concentrates the flavor, which I can verify, it does indeed do. You can cut the belly into perfect little squares for the final steps.
At the end, I put the belly cubes fat side down into a hot pan to crisp them up. Serve with whatever. I find that pork lends itself really well to fruit pairing, so I did these belly babies up with some peaches quickly sauteed with rosemary and balsamic. IT. WAS. INSANE. Looked good, tasted good, and hell was fun to make. I couldn't stop eating the belly. I have another slab in the fridge and I can't wait to have a rainy day to kill.
Braised Pork Belly with White Peaches and Rosemary
- 1.5lbs or .66kgs of pork belly
For the Brine
- 1 cup or 5 ounces of Kosher salt
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 large rosemary sprigs
- 1/2 bunch thyme
- 1/2 cup of roughly chopped garlic
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and gently heat until all the salt and honey has dissolved. Let cool and pour over the pork belly in a large bowl or pan. The belly should be fully immersed. Brine the pork for at least a few hours, ideally overnight
For the Braise
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 cup beef stock
Preheat the oven to 325F or 160C. Remove the belly and give it a rinse and pat it dry. Remove the pork skin if it's still on the belly. You want the fat fully exposed. Heat up a blub of olive oil in a large dutch oven. Cut the pork belly so it fits perfectly flat in the pan. Place the pork in the pan fat side down. Cook over low heat, until the fat begins to render about 15 minutes. Pour off the fat.
Flip the belly. Ladle in enough warm stock to come halfway up the belly, but don't cover it all the way with liquid. Cover with the dutch oven lid. Put in the oven, and braise for 2.5 hours. Take out of the oven and let cool to room temp. Remove the pork and wrap tightly in foil. Place on a plate, put another plate on top, and put two heavy cans on top. Put back in the fridge and let hang out for at least 12 hours.
- 4-6 white peaches
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 2 springs of rosemary, stripped and chopped
- 3 tbsps of balsamic vinegar
Remove the pork from the fridge. Cut into fun shapes. I chose squares.
Cut X's into the peaches. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the peaches in and let simmer for 30 seconds. Remove and drop into a bowl of ice water. Peel off the skins and cut into slices. Heat a little bit of veggie oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots and the rosemary and a big pinch of salt. Cook over low heat until translucent. Turn up the heat to high. Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Add the peach slices and sauté quickly over high heat for about 2 minutes.
At the same time the shallots are cooking, heat up some veggie oil in a non-stick pan, until quite hot. Put the pork belly fat side down in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes until crispy and brown and flip. Cook for another minute. Remove and sprinkle with kosher salt or Halen Mon salt.
Spoon the peaches over the pork and then sprinkle with a little bit more chopped rosemary. Try not to eat it all yourself.