This is originally a favorite in Chinese food culture. Traditionally American food culture cures and smokes pork belly for bacon. This can make it rather hard to find a pork belly just available in your butcher’s window, so you’ll need to find a full service butcher or CSA and place a special order in advance. Most full service butchers process pork once or twice a week. Just to be on the safe side I would call and reserve one on a Monday if you’re planning to serve the crispy pork belly on a Saturday.
Ideally you want a belly from a large pig or small hog. The fatter the animal was in life the harder it will be to get crispy skin and firm texture. Your best chances of finding this sort of custom pork belly from pig farm, ranch of CSA is going to be in late June or July. This tends to be the time of year when the pigs are getting big and the farmer is potentially short on space. They’re usually willing to part with a large pig or two. While the timing of this might change depending on where you live in the country, if you notice whole pork loins showing up at the grocery store for discount prices then chances are you missed your window on an ideal belly and you’ll have to settle for what the butcher can get their hands on for you.
This recipe uses more traditional American vegetables rather than Chinese. This will help you layer a bed of vegetables in the roasting pan for the pork belly to rest on. As the belly cooks it will render the fat off over the vegetables. Adding a little white wine to the roasting pan will keep the vegetables from frying and burning so they can be served as a functional side dish. If you don’t want to use white wine you can always turn to the white wine replacement of mixing water with chopped golden raisins or just plain water.
Mortar and pestle
Sharp paring knife
Long bladed spatula
Heavy duty tinfoil
4 to 5 pound pork belly
2 tablespoons of fennel seed
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 carrots cut into 2 inch chunks
2 spears of celery cut into 2 inch chunks
1 red onion, quartered
1 yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of fresh cracked black pepper
1 bottle white wine, Riesling or Pinot Grigio
2 to 4 teaspoons of arrowroot starch
Here is how to make sizzling and crispy pork belly
Step 1: The night before you plan to cook, pat dry the pork belly with paper towels then score the skin with a sharp paring knife. Your goal it to score a little less than a half inch deep with cross hatches about an inch to an inch and a half apart.
Step 2: Place the fennel seeds, salt and pepper in the mortar and pestle. Grind until it is a fine grain similar to pickling salt, then add the fine chopped herbs and minced garlic, stir to combine.
Step 3: Massage the spice rub into the cross hatches. Your goal here is to get it all deep into the score marks with as little on the outside of the skin as possible. Any spice rub that is on the skin will simply burn but the spice rub in the score marks will carry the flavor down into the rest of the belly when the fat renders out during roasting.
Step 4: Cover or wrap the pork belly and place it back in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
Step 5: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Step 6: Chop the vegetables and lay them evenly in the bottom or the roasting pan along with a cup of white wine, then lay the pork belly over top of the bed of vegetables with the skin side up. Lightly glaze the skin with coconut oil.
Step 7: Place the roasting pan in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until you see the skin start to bubble and blister.
Step 8: Turn the heat down to 325 degrees and continue to roast for another hour and a half. Open the door every 20 or 30 minutes to check the vegetables in the roasting pan. Add any additional wine if the vegetables are getting dry.
Step 9: If you want the skin on the roast to be a little crisper, you can set your oven to low broil for 5 or 6 minutes.
Step 10: Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Use a long bladed spatula and a heavy tongs to carefully remove the pork belly to a cutting board. Cover with heavy duty tinfoil and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
Step 11: Pour off the excess liquid in the bottom or the pan to a heat safe measuring cup. You should have around 2 cups of fat, reduced wine and vegetable juices. Place a medium saucepot over low heat and add 2 teaspoons of arrowroot starch per cup of liquid. Whisk to combine and allow the gravy to thicken.
Some people like to remove the skin from the pork belly roast. Then they chop and serve it like a crackling garnish after pulling the pork belly apart with 2 forks. I personally like to make 1 inch thick slices, then serve it over a bed of the vegetable medley and dress with a modest drizzle of the gravy.
Pair this with the same wine you used in the braising liquid.