A few weeks ago I bought a small slab of pork belly from Skagit River Ranch, hoping that I’d finally be able to translate the meltingly tender texture I’ve experienced at places like Tilth into a version I could create in my own kitchen. I thought I’d use someone else’s recipe for my first attempt, but since I seem to have fallen off the cookbook-purchasing wagon recently (hmmm, perhaps this writing-a-recipe-every-day thing has something to do with it?), nothing on my shelf seemed new enough to accommodate the way our country’s pork-eating habits are moving to more interesting parts of the pig. Trips over to epicurious.com and The Food Network for ideas revealed plenty of recipes that started with “you’ll need half a pork belly,” or, at best, “four pounds pork belly.” That, or “two tablespoons pork belly, finely diced.” I had a generous pound of pork belly, and I wanted to use it all.
So I took my friend Pat’s advice, and just braised it in soy sauce, along with garlic, ginger, hoisin, and orange juice, since I knew my western taste buds might gawk at a pure soy flavor with no added sweetness. Without further ado, perhaps the last braise until fall:
Recipe for Pork Belly with Soy, Ginger, and Orange
Recipe 145 of 365
Pork belly is basically bacon, cut differently. It looks obscenely fatty, but when braised, the fat melts into the meat and produces a most delicious, tender layer of pork unequaled in other cuts of meat. I’m that annoying person that usually cuts little bits of fat off of chicken or beef and scoops them onto the side of my plate, but I eat this fat. Note that the portions are rather small; you won’t need much.
All the pork belly I’ve enjoyed in restaurants has been astonishingly simple – just pork braised in apple cider, or wine, or beer, but never many ingredients, because the pork really speaks for itself. Although it still offers the same emotional satisfaction of most braises, this recipe is astonishingly easy to put together – no browning, just mixing. It is best made the day before, so you can refrigerate it overnight and skim off any excess fat before reheating and serving the next day, over sticky rice, mashed sweet potatoes, or brown rice.
TIME: 15 minutes active time (really)
MAKES: 4 servings
1 1/4 pound piece pork belly (weighed without rind), cut into 4 squares
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 3” piece ginger, finely slivered
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce or shoyu
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the onions on the bottom of a large, ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid (such as a Dutch oven). Place the pork pieces on top, fat side-up. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour over the pork and onions.
Cover the dish and bake for 2 hours, rearranging the meat in the pan (but not flipping it) once during cooking. Let the pot cool to room temperature before refrigerating overnight. Before serving, skim off any accumulated fat, and reheat the meat and onions over the stovetop on low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve hot.