Pork Belly: Sunday Delight

138
Chef Stephen

This pork belly is the perfect Sunday delight. Comfort food at its best.

Bonjour everyone!

Well, winter is here and the days are getting colder so now’s the time to light up a fire and enjoy slow-cooked cuisine.

Here is a cracker of a recipe that will definitely get you salivating and wanting more. This is such a simple recipe…but tastes so good, really succulent, and the crackling literally melts in your mouth.

A cheap, easy and forgiving cut, pork belly is at its best when cooked lazily in the oven, the fat allowed to melt away, the skin to crisp and the delicious meat to gently cook.

You may feel a little nervous cooking pork belly thinking you’ll either overcook it or the crackling won’t work but with very little effort, as you follow this simple recipe you’ll end up with that wondrous contrast of meltingly delicious meat and salty crunchy crackling. Voila voila – let’s do it!

I have done several pork belly recipes over the years using different methods of cooking from the traditional Italian way in a bath of milk and bay leaves (yes milk!…actually very delicious) or cooked in oil – the confit method not to mention the quite fiddly way using all manner of spices, brines, sauces and seasonings sometimes making a heck of a mess but this is by far the simplest, easiest and truly the tastiest.   

Preparation is simple…

PORK BELLY (serves 4) 

(or two with enough left over for some primo sandwiches the next day, and
maybe the odd late-night fridge raid!)


Ingredients

Pork Belly 1 Kg
Oil 1/2 cup (I use Olive oil but any will do)
Salt 3/4 cup 

Method

The Pork Belly is ok if it has bones in it…more flavour! Free range from the butcher is the best otherwise very easy to find at your local supermarket. Just make sure you take it out of the packaging and leave to air and dry overnight. This will help to get a good crisp crackling explained further on.

Now this is important: If the butcher hasn’t done it already, score the skin: Carefully slice lines right across the belly using a sharp craft knife, about 1cm apart. You want to pierce through the tough skin and just go into the fat layer, not cut into the meat underneath.

Scoring helps the crackling puff up later. This is vital if you want crackling, and there is no point cooking a pork belly if you don’t. A razor blade or craft knife is necessary. Even the sharpest, most expensive piece of finely engineered German steel will struggle where a Stanley knife blade from the local two-dollar shop will have no difficulty. Amazing eh!

Make sure the skin is completely dry using paper towels then season it generously with salt pushing some into the cracks of the skin, and finally drizzle and rub a good amount of oil all over the whole pork belly not forgetting the underside so it’s all nicely coated. Forget about a wire rack – I prop it up on onions and apples cut in thick round slices with, and if you can, some fennel cut in half length-wise as well.

Once I remove the pork from the roasting dish to serve, I blend all the yumminess in
the bottom of the pan to make a Michelin star thick apple and onion sauce.  An alternative is to use a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a few bay leaves, maybe some garlic cloves too.

Now put the pork belly skin side up in a hot oven, at least 225c, and immediately turn the heat right down to 140c. This initial blast of heat is for the skin, and helps the crackling crackle.

Cook gently for three hours, then turn the heat down further to 130c and cook for another hour. Check the crackling. If it isn’t to your liking, put the grill on but you better keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn, until the required level of crispness is reached (2-5 minutes).

Let the joint rest in a warm place for ten minutes or so, before removing the crackling, carving the meat and serving. The meat will be really tender and moist, the crackling crisp and crunchy and deliciously salty.

A slow roasted pork belly needs little attention, but it does need a lot of time. I would happily devote my morning to slow roasting a pork belly. The kitchen will be filled with the irresistible smell of roasting pork teasing the appetites of those around and yes even your neighbours!

Serve with something simple and straightforward, some steamed winter vegetables with roast potatoes and kumara. Nothing too fancy. This is a frugal dish, and the meat deserves to speak for itself.

PS It’s fabulous for a keto diet 

Bon Appetit!
Chef Stephen