Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Master Pork Belly Recipe

crispy skinned pork belly out
of the oven

The weekend before thanksgiving Gail and I had some friends over for dinner. Wanting to cook something I had never tried before I offered to make pork belly to pair with Gail's butternut squash risotto and Brussels sprouts and bacon. The two pieces you see on the left was my first attempt at working with pork belly. The entire process was incredibly simple and the result was a crispy skinned, moist pork belly that is easily manipulated and can fit as the meat component for an endless array of dishes.

pork belly seasoned before resting 

The recipe is David Chang's momofuku master pork belly & pork shoulder recipe, which ran in Lucky Peach Issue #1(available at McSweeney's). The best part of this recipe, which Chang points out in Lucky Peach is that it can very easily be scaled up or down depending on how much pork belly (or shoulder) you are working with.
For this attempt I was working with two pieces of Austin Brothers Valley Farm pork belly that totalled 2.5 lbs. (I got the pork belly at the Somerville Winter Farmer's Market). The dish takes a good deal of time, due to overnight seasoning and a 90-150 minute cooking time, however most of it is not hands on. This was a good project to start early on Saturday afternoon to serve for dinner on Sunday evening. The 2.5 lbs I made was obviously way too much for a simple dinner of 4 people (including 1 vegetarian), but the leftovers have gone in a variety of other dishes and will be enjoyed well into next week!
pork belly resting in the fridge with
wine, cider, & beers.
Momofuku Master Pork Belly (with slight alteration noted below)
This recipe can be scaled up and down to make as much as you like.
pork belly*
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt per pound of pork
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar per pound of pork
black pepper
*recipe calls for the pork belly to be skinless. I enjoy crispy pork belly skin and decided to leave it on.
Season the pork belly with the salt and sugar. Hit it with a couple turns freshly ground black pepper. Let it sit overnight, covered, in the fridge.
Throw the seasoned belly in a roasting pan. Blast it in a 450 F degree oven for 30 minutes. Scale the heat back to 275 F and let it ride out for another hour or two, until its tender but not mushy.
Let the belly cool to room temperature. Wrap it up tight in plastic and put it in the fridge until it's thoroughly chilled through- a few hours at least, and up to a couple days. At that point, slice it into nice, thick slabs, then either brown it in oil or warm it through with a little stock or water in a covered pan. Deploy as needed.
chilled and sliced thick
before final heating,
Because I had never worked with pork belly I wanted to ensure that it was cooked thoroughly so I used a meat thermometer to verify the belly was between 150 F - 160 F. 
When I got the belly's at the farmers market they were frozen. 
Timing & Alterations
After running errands and returning home I seasoned them as directed above and let them thaw a little before letting them rest in the refrigerator from 6 pm Saturday evening until 9:15 am Sunday morning. 
I put the pork belly's in the 450 F oven at 9:26 am. After the initial half hour, I gave the belly's a very thin maple glaze as I knew the flavor would pair well with Gail's risotto, and returned them to the oven at the reduced temperature. I removed the smaller of the two at 10:24 am, and the larger at 10:28 am. It took the belly's about about 50 minutes to cool to room temperature. They were wrapped in plastic and placed in the refrigerator at 11:16 am (at this point I cut off a small bit of charred crispy skin with some meat clinging to it and was really delighted with the taste!! I mean REALLY delighted. The slight hint of maple, balanced with the salt and a touch of black pepper had me breathing deeply with porkgasmic delight!). 
I pulled the belly out of the oven and sliced it for dinner around 6:00 pm.
I browned the pieces in a cast iron skillet with a mixture of belly drippings, a drop of leftover maple syrup, and a pinch of dried sage.
The final product were slightly gristly, maple-kissed, melt in your mouth good slices of pork belly that paired perfectly with Gail's risotto, but would easily be welcome in 1001 other dishes.

final product
The unaltered Master Pork Belly recipe as noted above is one that I am adding to my cooking arsenal with full confidence that I will turn to it time and time again for a number of dishes.
If you have never worked with pork belly, or need a great simple master recipe to use as a building block for more complicated dishes, this is the recipe you want to bookmark. 


GrafixMuse said...

Except for bacon, I have never had pork belly. It looks interesting. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Fred said...

It is really great, provided you don't mind the extra bit of fat, some of which can be trimmed off along with the skin. With a master recipe like this there is a ton you can do with it, very versatile.