This weekend I cooked my first pork belly. Pork belly is something I have wanted to cook for a long time. Alas, even though I knew a butcher, live in farm country, and know a couple of farmers I have not been able to get any pork belly. Then on a trip to Grand Rapids, in a market in the middle of the city I found pork belly and nobody gave me any weird looks for buying it. In fact, they seemed pleased that I knew what to do with it.
I have four different recipes for pork belly and I will try all of them, but this being my first pork belly I went simple; marinade and cook. Chinese Barbequed Pork (pg 97) from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. A simple marinade of Chinese rice wine, soy, sugar, garlic, hoisin, and Chinese five-spice. A few hours later, the pork belly went into a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. Honey was brushed on right before going in and at the half-way mark.
I would like to say that everything worked out, but at the 45 minute mark, the pork belly was not even close to done. Another 45 minutes and 2 more brushes of honey before it was done. And it did not have the burned/caramelized sugar top look I was hoping for. I lay the problem at the foot of our stove, which has a hard time keep a constant temperature. As an example, knowing our stove is odd, I set the temperature to 300, hoping to hit 325, I hit 475. Barb, who has the magic touch, set the temperature for 250 and hit 325. See, the stove.
Once the pork belly rested, about 10 minutes, and was sliced, all was well…no, everything was great. Even though it did not look like I wanted, it tasted better than we thought or imagined. A sweet porky, fatty taste that sits on the tongue for a bit after swallowing. I ate the first two slices before even thinking of offering any to Barb. She loved it.
Taking a suggestion from Mrs. Fever, I am currently working on a vegetable curry/ratatouille using zucchini, candy onions, garlic, potatoes, and a small amount of cauliflower. The onions have been browned and everything is in a slow cooker. Why slow cooker? Because I want the flavors to blend together better than I could get them to in a pan or in the oven. Plus, there were complaints about the onion…whimps. 🙂