Who doesn’t like bacon? (Seriously. If anyone still has their hand up, try this recipe then get back to me.)
I’m going to be straight with you; this is pork belly. It’s not turkey on rye or Jenny Craig’s monthly waist slimmer. This is a once-in-a-while, treat-yourself (or your guests) kind of meal.
The choice ingredients used for this recipe highlight pork’s natural sweetness, smokiness and tenderness, allowing you to use only this handful of ingredients and yielding a bounty full of flavor.
The accompanying sides are endless and entirely up to you, from traditional to way out there. Serve it as a main or, cut into small pieces, as an hors d’oeuvre. This is another versatile recipe with countless possible applications and accompaniments.
Pictured, I served the pork belly with a balsamic gastrique, sauteed spinach and a pickled heirloom carrot salad dressed with a habanero vinaigrette.
4 lbs. skinless pork belly (excess fat trimmed, cut in half)
10 sprigs thyme (2 bundles, bound with cooking twine)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups dried apricots
2 red onions, diced
4 large carrots, peeled, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup veal (or beef) stock
8 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan to medium-high.
Place the two halves of pork in the preheated pan and sear off until golden brown. (No need for any oil or butter as the belly will provide that on its own.)
In a high-sided metal baking pan, place the seared belly pieces and pour in the thyme, garlic, apricots, onions and carrots. Arrange so they are evenly distributed.
Pour the stocks over all the ingredients, stopping when just the tops of the bellies are exposed.
Cover the pan with tin foil and cook for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 275 degrees F and bake 2 hours more.
Pull the pan from the oven, remove the tin foil. Allow the belly to rest for 30 minutes. Reset oven to 300 degrees F.
Discard the thyme bundles and carefully place the belly on a chopping board.
Pour the remaining contents into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour this “gravy” into a saucepan on low, stirring occasionally.
Cut the pork belly into squares or rectangles, depending on your plating preferences, number of guests and portion sizes.
In a heavy-bottomed skillet set to medium high, add a little olive oil and again sear off the belly pieces, adding even more color. (Doing so will help bind the outside of the pieces as, by this stage of cooking, they are on the border of falling apart.)
Repeat the sautéing with all the pieces. Keep them on an oven tray in the 300-degree oven for up to 1 hour until accompaniments are ready.
Season and taste the gravy. Once accompanying sides are ready, proceed to plating.
Mark Godbeer, a culinary-trained chef from South Africa, has been professionally cooking for more than 11 years, 9 of which have been on yachts (chefmarkgodbeer.com). Comments on this recipe are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.