I have always considered myself a lover of bacon. In all seriousness, who isn’t? Well, maybe vegans…but I’ll bet most of them still hide a secret dirty yearning for that crispy, greasy, smokey loveliness. The pig is a magical creature, and up until this very moment I had never cooked pork belly. Oh, by golly, I have eaten my fair share and it has always been dreamy. Cooking it was a different story. I’ve had this slab of pork belly in my freezer for about 3 months now. I bought it because it was on sale for $1.99 a pound, and then it just got forgotten about in the deep abyss known as my freezer.
There was a brief moment where I almost stopped eating pork altogether during my culinary apprenticeship, but believe me-that did not stick. My fellow apprentices and I, chaperoned by our fearless chefs, took a walking tour of the Smithfield packing plant & slaughterhouse in Virginia. The tour goes from packaged bacon all the way to the live pigs. Honestly, if I could have gone back in time and not attended this field trip…I would have skipped it. At the risk of sounding like a huge sissy, it was horrid. Seeing hundreds of pigs gassed, boiled and gutted in front of your eyes in a matter of minutes can do a number to a person. But I digress, this is not proper dinner conversation!
Pigs are delicious. Let’s leave it at that.
*Note: This recipe takes about 2.5 hours of cooking.
Crispy Skin Pork Belly
- pork belly slab (I used 1 pound and that was enough for 2 people)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side upwards. Get yourself a small sharp knife (or a box cutter works great!) and make scores about a half inch apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat.
Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you have to. Brush any excess salt off the surface of the skin and turn it over.
Season the underside of the meat with a little more salt and a little black pepper.
Place your pork, skin side-up, in a roasting tray big enough to hold the pork, and place in the hot oven.
Roast for about half an hour until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. Turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and roast for another hour.
Take out of the oven and baste with the fat in the bottom of the tray. Roast for an additional hour. By this time the meat should be melty, soft and tender. Carefully move the meat to a serving dish, cover with tin foil and leave to rest until ready to serve.
Sauteed Romanesco Cauliflower with Toasted Hazelnuts
- 1 Romanesco Cauliflower (Substitute: broccoli or cauliflower)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil (I used the fat from the pan of pork belly)
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced shallots
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp crushed red chilies
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fill a pot large enough to hold the cauliflower florets 2/3 full of fresh water and set it on the stove on high heat to boil. Add some salt to the water, so that it tastes salty. While the pot is starting to boil, fill a large bowl with ice and water. Ensure the bowl is large enough to hold the ice, water and cauliflower.
Once the water has begun to boil, quickly submerge the cauliflower into the boiling water. Cover immediately with a tight fitting lid. Begin timing and blanch the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Start timing when the cauliflower is all in the pot, not when it begins to boil again.
When the 3 minutes are up, quickly drain the cauliflower and plunge it into the ice water. Allow it to sit in the ice bath until it is chilled to the touch. When chilled, drain it from the ice bath and set aside.
Heat a large pan and toast the hazelnuts and keep aside-about 5 minutes on medium heat.
Add the oil and sauté the shallots and garlic till soft. Season with salt and the crushed chilies. Stir in the drained florets and sauté gently on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the hazelnuts and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and mix well. Serve warm.