[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Seared Pork Belly Confit
8 September 2011
[The final dish]

Pork belly is a favorite cut of mine, and one that is surprisingly versatile. To be sure, one can make bacon out of it, which is almost never a bad thing, but one can also simply roast it, use it in slow cooking applications and so forth.

Or, you can go really decadent.

A friend recommended the basic idea for this recipe, and I've experimented with several variations in the past and found them all satisfactory. This treatment really brought it all together. Brining the belly rather than giving it a short dry cure, which is what I had done before, brings rather more flavor to the party and suits the cooking method better. Cooking it as a confit adds even more flavor, as well as giving it a lovely melting texture. Searing it is just the icing on the cake, as it were.

The process is a bit more complicated and requires a bit more planning ahead than some of the recipes I've provided, but the results are quite simply amazing.

Seared Pork Belly Confit

Mix all the ingredients for the bring and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Then add the pork belly and brine in the fridge for 24-48 hours. (I started it Thursday night and let it go until Saturday morning.) This amount of brine works well in a freezer bag with the pork and makes it easy to flip the whole thing over once or twice to make sure the brine gets good coverage.

[Pre-confit]

Remove the belly from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse and dry the belly. Choose a roasting dish or loaf pan that will be a good tight fit for the belly, and sprinkle the rosemary on the bottom. Crush the juniper berries and add them, then put the pork belly on top, rind side up. Add enough olive oil to just barely cover the pork, or very nearly. (If you've packed the belly tightly a cup or so might do it.) Stick the whole thing in a 225F (yes, that's two-hundred-twenty-five degree) oven and go find something else to do for five hours or so.

Remove the belly from the oven, then from the hot fat bath, peel the rind off the top and let the remainder rest and drain. Put some of the oil in the skillet and heat to medium-high. Cut the rind into whatever size and shape suits your fancy and fry it off in the skillet. The crispy skin can serve as a garnish or you can just eat it straight out of the pan, as I often do. Be warned, large pieces will curl and will stay chewy. I don't see that as a drawback personally, but if you want a crispy garnish, cut it into small pieces before cooking.

[Belly pre-searing] The time it takes to cook your pork rind should allow the rest of the meat time to drain. If the pork belly is a particularly fatty piece, you might want to take a moment to trim some of the fat at this point. Then pop the pieces into the hot oil and sear them to get some good color and carmelization on them. Before searing, I try to gently brush the juniper berries off, but leave the rosemary on the bottom of the meat.

Serve however you like, but something acid might be a good idea, since even if you've trimmed the fat, this is a rich piece of meat. I served it with sliced tomatoes, for instance. As far as portioning goes, this amount of belly is overkill for two, generous for three and probably adequate for four.

Nota Bene:
Save the oil! The olive oil will have absorbed pork flavor, as well as flavors from the brine and the rosemary. Stick it in the fridge and use it where-ever you like. It's mostly olive oil, which means that in the fridge it will firm up. It's still spreadable, though, and a piece of good bread, smeared with the oil, with a slice of tomato on top and a dash of salt is absolutely delicious.


© 2011 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite