Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pork Belly Party Bites

Last week, much to the butcher's relief, I bought a 7-pound chunk of frozen pork belly at Earth Fare. The butcher had special ordered it for a customer, but it had not arrived on time so the meat department was stuck with it. I really wanted a fresh pork belly, but after contacting a couple of local suppliers, I knew this frozen one was the best I could do if I wanted it now. Five pounds of the pork belly is for a project I'll be blogging about later this week. I knew I wanted to do something fun with the other two pounds, I just wasn't sure what.
I needed an hors d'œuvre to take to a get-together tonight so I went looking for a recipe. I found this one for Pork Belly Skewers on Epicurious. It then evolved into Pork Belly Party Bites. I made a few substitutions so that the ingredients -- other than the pork belly -- are easily attainable, and modified the recipe so that the presentation is less complicated and fussy. Warning: this is a three day project, but on no day is there too much to be done. Day one: make the brine and throw the pork belly into it; Day two: braise the pork belly for 3-4 hours then wrap in plastic and refrigerate, Day three: make the sauce, cut and grill the pork belly.

Pork Belly Party Bites

For brine:

  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 1/3 cups kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 fresh spicy chilies, thinly sliced (red, Serrano, or Habanero)
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 5 bay leaves
For pork belly:
  • 3 pounds pork belly, skin discarded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onion, each cut into 6 wedges
  • 1 head garlic, left unpeeled and halved crosswise
  • 2 cups chicken broth
For chile sauce:
  • 1/2 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 5 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 3 spicy chilies, chopped, including seeds (red, Serrano or Habanero)
  • 6 tablespoons garlic cloves, chopped
  1. Bring the brine ingredients to a boil in a large (6-quart) pot, then simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Cool brine to room temperature, then chill until cold, about 3 hours, and up to 3 days.(We put ours on the snowy deck for a few hours!)
  2. Cover rhe pork belly with the brine in a large heavy roasting pan and chill for 24 hours.
  3. Remove pork belly from brine, discarding brine, and rinse under cold water. Pat pork belly dry.
  4. Preheat the oven to 225°F with rack in middle. Straddle a roasting pan across 2 burners and heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  5. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits.
  7. Add the pork belly and remove from the heat. Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil and braise the pork belly in the oven until it is very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.
  8. Remove the pork belly (reserve braising liquid for another use) and cool to room temperature.(The braising liquid is incredibly delicious -- need to figure out what to do with it!)
  9. Wrap the pork belly tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and chill, pressed between 2 baking sheets with a weight (I used a 5-pound weight) on top, 12 to 24 hours.
  10. Make chile sauce by puréeing the sauce ingredients with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a blender.
  11. Bring the pork belly to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cut lengthwise into 1-inch strips.
  12. Using a gas grill, preheat all burners on high 10 minutes, then adjust heat to medium-high.
  13. Heat a grill pan, spray with non-stick oil, then grill the pork belly, turning occasionally and basting with chile sauce once more, until well browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Brush with more chile sauce
  14. Serve the pork belly bites warm or at room temperature with toothpicks.
When I finished braising the pork belly, I honestly could have stood at the stove and picked at it until at least half of it was gone. Pretty fine vittles even before the spicy Asian sauce and crisping on the grill! .I knew it was good, but I wasn't quite sure exactly how my finished product would be received at this particular gathering of not-necessarily-foodies. The pork belly was a huge hit. My colleague's Chinese wife was wowed. The older Southern gentlemen loved it. I was bummed that my half-Korean colleague and her chef husband arrived too late to get any.

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