Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Momofuku’s Pork Belly

Farmers markets mean more than just fruit and vegetables. On a recent trip to the Bellevue Farmers Market I saw fresh-baked bread, hand-made pasta, fish, oysters, pasture-raised beef, pork and chicken, cheese and free-range eggs (including my new favorite thing, duck eggs). It’s easy to make a meal out of products from the farmers market (and you can usually find dessert too).

I had a limited amount of cash on me, so I had to really focus-down my list of what I wanted. I bought some basics (leeks, carrots and potatoes), a few heirloom tomatoes from the seconds bin (they’re not as pretty but they still taste great), dragon’s tongue beans, a dozen duck eggs and a nice piece of pork belly.

Having never cooked pork belly myself I decided to do a little research. I found several accepted methods including braising the belly, making confit with it (which sounded kind of crazy since pork belly is really fatty and confit means that the meat is cooked submerged in fat) and roasting.

I saw lots of mentions of David Chang’s Pork Belly. As I had recently picked up his Momofuku cookbook I decided to turn to it for a recipe (an aside, if you are averse to bad language this is not the cookbook for you). The thing is, he has three recipes for pork belly in the book. One of them is a long cook time in a low oven. The other two recipes called for starting in a high heat oven to brown the belly followed by additional cook time at a low temperature. The disadvantage of this second method is that a lot of the fat in the belly is lost and the piece of meat shrinks by almost half. However, the idea of a nicely browned piece of unctuous pork belly outweighed that disadvantage.

I’m not a fan of posting recipes from another chef’s cookbook, so I won’t be posting a recipe here (but if you are an adept Google user you can probably find it). I used the recipe on page 50.

I started with this beautiful piece of pork belly. The piece came with the skin on so my first task was to remove it.

Next I rubbed the belly with a mixture of salt and sugar.

I covered the belly with plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge. After 6 hours a little liquid had collected in the pan so I poured it out as directed. Now here is where I would make a little change to Chang’s recipe. In the future, I would rinse the extra sugar and salt out of the bottom of the pan before I started the pork in the oven. In ended up burning and … well, you’ll see.

I popped the belly in a hot oven. After a half hour I basted the top of the pork with some of the drippings, then again after an hour.

At this point I turned the oven way down and put the belly back in, cooking it for another hour, until it was soft (like a pillow) when I poked it. Now see all that burned stuff around the edges? I’m pretty sure that if I had rinsed the extra salt/sugar combination out of the bottom of the pan that burned on (really hard to clean off) crud wouldn’t have been there.

I let this cool completely, wrapped it up in plastic wrap and then put it in the fridge. In order for the pork belly to be easy to cut it needs to be chilled overnight. I had also read about pressing the pork while it was in the fridge overnight so that the slices would be even so I did that too (I just covered it with a baking sheet and put a few heavy cans on top).

The next night I cut the belly into slices 1/2-inch thick and about 2 inches long. I warmed them up in a single layer in a frying pan for just a couple of minutes, until the belly was warmed through.

I served the belly with stir-fried ramen noodles (with a few carrots thrown in for good measure) tossed with Chang’s delicious ginger scallion sauce and a couple of quick pickles.

We had friends over for dinner to enjoy the beauty that is pork belly. Everything was a huge hit. The only thing left when we were done was a few of the pickles.

We ended the meal with a bowl full of chilled rambutan.

My friend described the pork belly as caramelized and I think that description fits perfectly. The pork belly was lovely on it’s own, but even better when combined with the ramen and sauce.

I will definitely be cooking from the Momofuku cookbook again, delicious!

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About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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