I knew I was pushing it when I bought a slab of pork belly from our local butcher shop. The “hungry” hubby does not like the fat or skin of any kind of meat at all. This is usually a perfect arrangement because there are no contentions over crispy chicken skin and crispy fat pieces from lamb or steaks – they are all mine for the taking. But the sight of pieces of pork belly, which are easily the lardiest part of the pig, cooking in a large vat of simmering fat – now that’s well uhm – pushing it, right?
Pork belly is what bacon is made from. So there is not much difference fat-wise to eat several strips of bacon than having it in the form of deep-fried succulent pork belly cutlets. Both are equally sinful but I infinitely prefer the latter preparation.
Charcuterie is the art of preserving meat either by salting, smoking or curing. My favorite among these is the confit de canard otherwise known as duck confit. An excellent book on this subject is Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polycn. I couldn’t describe the profound interest I have in the curing of duck and of pork – two of my favorite meats. The process of charcuterie transforms their meat and fat into extremely succulent and tasty fare. I have also gotten obsessive about making pork belly confit. The best way to prepare the pork belly confit for serving is to deep-fry it. I have just gotten over my fear of copious amount of hot oil so this possibility has become more of a reality –- I finally made the confit this weekend!
Ruhlman was right. You can’t get it anymore less fatty so you might as well go all-out with deep-frying. This method creates a uniform crust with the fat becoming so meltingly tender that it literally dissolves on your tongue.
The confit was crispy on the outside, the meat falling apart but it was the fat that held the concentration of flavors derived from all the spices — a perfect alchemy of complex tastes that explodes with flavor with each bite.
I served this with some mustard and balsamic vinegar which exquisitely complements every bit of this artery-clogging number. It is very good served with a crusty baguette but my Asian roots had me eating this with a plate of steaming white rice.
Jim Drohman’s Pork Belly Confit
Adapted from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman
2 tbs freshly ground black pepper
½ tbs ground cinammon
½ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground allspice
3 bay leaves crushed
10 springs fresh thyme
2 ounces kosher salt
1 tsp pink salt
6 lbs pork belly, skin removed and cut into 1x 3 inch chunks
Rendered pork or duck fat as needed
Dry white wine
Canola oil or rendered duck or pork fat for deep-frying
Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl and stir to distribute the seasonings evenly.
Toss the pork with the cure to coat evenly. Pack into a nonreactive container and cover with white wine. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
Preheat oven to 250 °F
Remove the pork from the cure and pat the pieces dry with paper towels. Place pork in an ovenproof pot or Dutch oven and cover with the rendered fat. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, then place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the pork is fork-tender, about 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the pork from the oven and cool to room temperature in the fat. (If you simply can’t wait to eat this succulent bundle when it is just finished its confit – we highly recommend chilling all confit, which intensifies the juicy tenderness of the meat – you can pour off and reserve the fat, then return the pan to the stovetop over high heat until the meat is nicely browned). Refrigerate the pork in the pan it was cooked in or transfer to another container and add the fat; the pork should be completely submerged in the fat. Refrigerate until completely chilled, or for up to 2 months.
To serve, remove the pork from the refrigerator, preferably a few hours ahead. Remove the pork from the fat, and wipe off the excess. In a deep-heavy pot, heat the oil for deep-frying 350 to 375. Deep-fry the pork belly until crispy and heat through, about 2 minutes if it was at room temperature. Remove and drain on paper towels.
This was extremely easy to make. I really like the flavors in this confit and might not make much variations except maybe experiment with garlic and star anise or even five-spice. I forgot to cut the pieces into 1×3 inch chunks so I had to cut them before deep-frying. I don’t know how this affected the end product. I guess I just have to make the pork belly confit again to find out!
Being the half-cooked Chinese girl that I am, I totally forgot about Chinese New Year. Coincidentally, it is the Year of the Pig. This might explain why I was so adamant to cook this deep-fried pork belly this past weekend. Well, at least I celebrated it even without being aware of it. Kung hei fat choi!!!