…But try as they might, the three little pigs were no match for the big bad wolf (that’s me!), for she came and gobbled them all up!…
Braised pork belly is a marvelous thing. Done right, it can be simultaneously tender, creamy and crispy – and it’s deceptively simple to make, though there are a few steps to it. I wanted to experiment with different flavour and texture combinations: the first, pork belly with something sweet, crispy, tender and creamy; the second with something sticky, bold and spicy; the third with something crunchy and sour.
Once upon a time there were three little pork bellies who, after having been cured and braised, left their “mother” and set out into the world to seek their fortunes. After passing through the frying pan, they came upon a table full of items with which to protect themselves from the elements – and of course, that big, bad wolf their mother had always warned them about.
The first little pork belly made his house of a poached apple fritter and fennel frond, on a foundation of Pernod cream.
The second little pork belly fashioned his abode from chili onion jam, with a charming little pathway of Szechuan pepper salt.
The third little pork belly, a burgeoning architect with a flair for the dramatic, constructed his house of pickled fennel, red onion and lemon peel, and a sprinkle of mustard seeds.
Braised Pork Belly
3 lb pork belly
1/4 c salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp cumin seed
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1 star anise
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a spice grinder, grind salt, sugar, and whole spices together. Stir in ground coriander and cinnamon.
Remove the bottom section of pork belly that has bones embedded and set aside to make pork stock. (Note: if your pork belly did not come with the bony section, don’t despair! Just use plain chicken stock as the braising liquid.)
Rub pork belly with spice mix and cure, refrigerated, for 3 days.
1 bay leaf
1/2 head garlic
1 rib celery
6 black peppercorns
water or chicken stock
Put above ingredients and the section of pork belly that was removed in a pot and cover with water or chicken stock. Simmer for 4 hours, then allow to cool fully. Remove solids for other uses.
Preheat oven to 200F.
Rinse the pork belly, then place in a pan that fits it as closely as possible. Cover fully with pork stock, then seal the pan with foil and allow to braise in the oven for 8 hours, or overnight.
Strain and reserve the liquid (don’t discard it! It will have a lot of wonderful flavour – I suggest using it in a Zucchini Pear Soup).
Just before serving, cut serving-size pieces and sear the cut edges and skin in a pan.