Back when, as wee bit food junkies learning about the relation of pork bellies to bacon from Trading Places, we never imagined that bacon was already living a double life right in front of our eyes on non-breakfast menus, hiding as fatty pork down at places like Judy Doo’s Chinese Restaurant. Grateful for the early exposure, we were full-on joyful when chefs at innumerable restaurants in the early 2000’s began to prepare it every which way – roasted, brined, braised, grilled, often combining methods. Gothamist is also partial to using it mixed with pork shoulder for things like tacos and ragu at home.
Some of our favorite places to have it when out:
+ Gramercy Tavern at the bar – a gorgeous cube roasted crisply
+ 5 Ninth – especially local during pea season
+ And Tong Po Pork – unable to suggest a specific location at this time, anyone have a suggestion? Or maybe ask the ‘hounds.
+ Wish list - Daniel, any other thoughts ?
If you want to replicate the luxurious richness of one of these dishes at home, it couldn’t be easier.
Last week we spoke about Kurowycky Meat Market, but we really can not emphasize what a treasure this place is. We have been patronizing it for years, more often than not for bacon, but also for ham and any of their sausages. This stuff is better than good, it is gooder – kid you not, we tell anyone who likes Luger’s bacon to just pick themselves up some super thick, custom cut slices Slab Bacon and fry it up at home for an even better experience. If you don’t believe us, ask our Polish pal Michelle, who makes the trip from Hoboken regularly to stock up.
Intent on using some of their pork bellies to build a great dish, we returned this week and paid a visit to pick up Smoked Rib Bacon. *While you really should go, there will be instructions at the bottom skip the visit, but be forewarned it will not be the same.
Buy about 1/3 lb. of belly per person as it is very rich and filling. The dish is rounded out simply with braised greens and white rice, or maybe with Spaetzle if you are feeling adventurous.
Place the pork belly, using a pot just big enough for it that also has a lid, rib side down in enough chicken stock to come up just over halfway on the meat. Cover and lightly braise (just under a simmer if possible) for 1½ hours, flip and repeat with the fat side down.
Cool overnight in the refrigerator.
Remove the pork from the braising liquid, scraping off any fat or stock that sticks to it. Discard all fat, which should be solid by now, from the top of the reduced jellylike stock.
Cut off the ribs (reserving for another use like soup or stock), and slice the pork into your portions. At this point you will just be finishing the belly by crisping it in a skillet for about 10 minutes, so make sure the other items for your dish will be ready soon before starting.
Sear the belly portions on all sides in a very hot (at the beginning) dry skillet. Moderate the heat to prevent too much smoking, and pour off the fat as it renders, saving it for future use. Once crispy on all sides, remove to a plate to rest.
For a more traditional sauce, sauté mirepoix and an herb (parsley or thyme come to mind) to a bit of the pork fat, deglaze with the reserved braising liquid, reduce and add a bit of something acidic to balance the flavors. We used a few drops of lemon juice, but Sherry, Champagne or rice wine vinegar would be nice as well. To take the sauce in different directions, you can also add wine, soy sauce, sambal, mirin, honey, or anything else you like. Just add it with the braising liquid before adjusting for acidity. Strain the sauce before plating.
For something more rustic, fry up some onions in pork fat till crisp tender, then add thinly sliced savoy cabbage. Add sea salt to the pan and cook cabbage over high heat till it is almost wilting, then add reserved braising liquid, reduce and add a bit of something acidic to balance the flavors. Serve crisped pork belly on top of the cabbage.
* In order to make this dish without going to Kurowycky Meat Market, buy some raw pork belly from Chinatown or a butcher. Treat it like short ribs, browning and braising for 4 hours - in chicken stock if possible - with mirepoix and aromatics (parsley, thyme, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaf, et.al.)