Happy Anniversary to She Cooks, He Cleans! We published our first post on February 1, 2011 and we’ve made it for an entire year! We appreciate all the support everyone has given us, and every day we are amazed to see how the blog has grown. The blog started as a way to share our passions, food and music, with friends and family. The crazy thing is it has helped us discover “kinships” with people that we have never met, and we have learned and benefited from these connections. Thank you all!
For our anniversary post, we tried something new for us – Pork Belly! We joined a CSA recently, Moonshine Meats based in Athens, Georgia. I love this statement off their website:
Moonshine Meats is just meat the way it should be: raised on pasture by producers who have a deep sense of humility, humanity and awe for both animal and land.
We picked up our first allotment of “Dig the Pig” from Darla and Rick in the parking lot behind Farm Burger. Buying meat out of a trunk of a car in a parking lot was a unique experience, which reminded us of similar transactions in our misguided youth. (Ha!) I knew there was some pork belly coming to us, so I had been planning a braise. I was inspired by these recipes – Cider-Braised Pork Belly with Cranberry Chutney and Apple Frisée Salad, at Houseboat Eats; Michel Nischan’s Braised Pork Shoulder with Cherry Gravy, in this month’s issue of Food & Wine; and Roasted Pork Belly with Sweet Potatoes, at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. You might notice that I borrowed elements from each of these recipes. Yep, and it worked out pretty well too! Thanks, guys!
A note about pork belly – it is lusciously, decadently, deliciously fatty. It is the holy part of the pig that provides us with bacon. If you don’t enjoy the sensation of crispy fat melting in your mouth, for goodness sake don’t even look at this recipe. Skip along now, and leave the pork belly to the rest of us!
Every bite was sinfully good, but was possibly a little too much on the sweet side. I may have pushed it over the top by serving it with sweet potatoes AND cherry sauce. Next time I make this, I will try it over something like polenta or mashed vegetables to give it more balance. However, I found that a nice glass of Pinot Noir complemented it well! If you’d like to try it with sweet potatoes and fennel, the recipe is here – just leave out the bacon when you roast it.
- 1 to 1.5 pounds pork belly, including rind
- Kosher or sea salt, freshly ground pepper
- ~3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons oil, suitable for medium-high heat
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 cup meat stock (I used veal stock)
- 1/2 cup dried sour cherries
- ~1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 325F. Season the pork belly all over with salt, pepper, and ground coriander. In a Dutch oven or heavy braising pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Brown the pork belly deeply on both sides. Remove the pork and set aside. Pour off the used oil from the pan (but don’t lose the browned bits). Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add celery, carrots, and onion; cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened (around 6 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir for a couple of minutes; add red wine and bring to a simmer. Deglaze pan by loosening up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add cider and meat stock; bring to a boil. Return pork to the pan and place in oven. Braise for around 3 hours, covered, gently turning the pork occasionally.
Remove the pork from the liquid, careful that it doesn’t fall apart. Strain the pan juices through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and pour off accumulated fats from the top (a measuring cup with fat separator does a nice job of this). Return the stained sauce to the pan, and add cherries and vinegar. You want these pan juices to have a nice, saucy consistency. If necessary, increase heat to a boil and reduce the sauce to about 1 cup or to desired consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper. Keep sauce warm on low heat while finishing the pork belly.
Preheat the broiler. Place the pork belly, skin side up, on a cutting board. Slice the pork belly into pieces around 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick, and place the slices in a shallow roasting pan or heavy baking sheet. Broil briefly until the fat is sizzling and crisping, then turn the slices and crisp up the other side. Watch it carefully – it should only take about a minute per side. It would be a crying shame to burn it at the last minute!
Serve the pork belly over roasted vegetables (as pictured), or over polenta, mashed potatoes or other pureed vegetables. Spoon a little cherry sauce over the top, and enjoy!
Today’s soundtrack is a tribute to the great jazz drummer, Paul Motian, who died last year. A monumental career, with stops behind the kit for Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and more. Here are two excellent works he released last year. First is Lost in a Dream, featuring Motian with Jason Moran and Chris Potter live at the Village Vanguard. Sublime but intense, it features his unique, underscored method of using brushes and a minimal drum kit to propel the music softly but surely.
Second is an all-star gathering, Live At Birdland, featuring Motian, Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden on bass, and Brad Mehldau, the “kid” of the foursome on piano performing standards. Truly breathtaking.