Bacon seems to be everywhere nowadays. Baconators at Wendy’s. Bacon scented candles. Epic Meal Time on Youtube (“add bacon strips, add bacon strips”). And that’s all good and well. But being bacon is like being Robin to the proverbial Batman. Even though bacon may be famous, it still second fiddle. Bacon on top of burgers, bacon wrapped steaks, bacon bits on salads. Bacon is often not the star of the show. That’s where pork belly comes in.
Farmers do not raise walking strips of bacon. Bacon is most often made from the belly of the pig, the most fatty, unctuous part. Most pork belly consumed in America is in the form of bacon. However, pork belly can be cooked in other ways and with just as delicious results as bacon. Pork belly is basically 50% fat (or more), and although some of it cooks out, it is a decadent dish best reserved for special occasions.
This is the first time I’ve actually cooked pork belly. My mom bought it for a Chinese New Year’s dish, but ended up not using it. So I took this as an opportunity to try cooking it. Also, since this is my first recipe outside of my class, I thought it would be fun to parallel it to my first recipe in this blog, “Sautéed Greens” (Recipe Here). So this pork belly is served with sautéed cabbage, its astringency helps cut through the fat.
Braised Pork Belly with Sautéed Cabbage
· 1.5 lbs Pork Belly, skin removed (try to get the leanest belly possible)
· 1 Rosemary sprig
· Juice of two oranges
· ¼ cup of soy sauce
· ¼ cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
· Salt and pepper
· 1/3 cup brown sugar
· Half head of green cabbage, shredded
· 6 cloves of garlic
· 8 oz fresh shitake mushrooms
· Half sprig rosemary
· Juice and zest of one lemon
· 2 Tbsp capers
· 2 Tbsp soy sauce
· 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
· 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
· Salt, pepper, and sugar to taste
o Note: Liquid measurements are approximate, more may be needed
1. Place the pork belly into an oven safe pan. Mix the rest of the ingredients, except the brown sugar, and pour over the belly. Roast in a 250 degree oven for 2 hours.
2. After 2 hours, remove the belly and raise the heat to 400 degrees. Mix some of the juices in the pan with the brown sugar and glaze the pork belly. Place back into the oven and glaze the pork belly every few minutes until a brown crust forms. Remove from oven and keep warm.
3. Take the leftover juices in the pan and separate the fat from it (pour in a tall cup and wait for the fat to float to the top. Carefully spoon out all the fat that rises). Add the juices to a pan and reduce until a thick glaze.
4. Add some oil to a pan and sauté the garlic. Add the mushrooms and rosemary and cook. Add the liquid ingredients and cook. Once the mushrooms are soft, add the cabbage and cook for a few minutes. Add capers and lemon zest. The cabbage should still have some crunch when cooked.
5. To plate, place cabbage on a plate. Using a sharp knife, slice the belly into roughly ½ inch slices (the belly will slice cleaner if you chill it first and then slice it, but this involves reheating the belly). Place two slices of belly on the cabbage and drizzle with reduced pan juices. Serves 6 with extra pork belly.
This dish came out extraordinarily well. It is very rich and indulgent, but it’s good. The cabbage really helps cutting the fat of the belly. I didn’t know how to cook belly so I just threw it into the oven, however, I looked up some recipes on Youtube, and this seemed like a common technique. The ingredients are both Asian and Italian, but the end result is very modern American in flavor.