Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pork Belly

Pork belly is a specialty ingredient - it cannot be found everywhere. Usually your best bet would be in a large Asian grocery or a Chinese butcher shop. If you are able to find suckling pig belly, it is an even more special treat. It has less fat, finer texture and a very delicate flavour. You are only likely to find this at a specialty butcher. I get it at a specialty butcher at Jean-Talon market specializing in pork and even they do not have it all the time. While the same basic ingredients and cooking methods work for both, the flavours and cooking times need to be modified so I will be showing two recipes: one for suckling pig and one for mature pork belly.


Recipe 1
2 kg suckling pig belly
olive oil
3 onions
5 cloves garlic
3 large carrots
1- inch piece ginger
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight
1 tblsp smoked paprika
½ cup chopped bacon
2 cups hard sparkling cider
2 cups ginger ale
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 bunch collard greens
1 cup fresh plums, pitted and quatered

Recipe 2
2 kg pork belly
olive oil
3 onions
5 cloves garlic
3 ribs celery
3 large carrots
1 - inch piece ginger
½ cup chopped bacon
1 tblsp smoked paprika
1 cup red wine
3 cups cola
2 bay leaves
1 bunch collard greens
1 cup white or black beans, soaked overnight


Cut pork belly in manageable pieces and sear each piece and reserve.



Add bacon to the pan and fry until crispy. Add carrots and onions (and celery if using) and saute until onions are translucent, then add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Then add paprika and cook for 2 minutes. Add the liquids, followed by the beans and the herbs. Add the pork belly back to the pot (unless using suckling pig belly. In that case the beans need to cook for at least an hour first). Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours. After 3 hours, cut the stems off the collard greens and roughly chop the leaves. Add collards to the pot and cook for 1 more hour, or until the pork belly is tender. Suckling pig belly takes about 2 hours to cook, while mature pork belly takes at least four hours, maybe longer. When the suckling pig version is almost cooked, add the plums and cook for another 10-15 minutes. You can try this with the mature pork belly as well - I'm just not sure about the balance.



Note that both recipes call for carbonated soda drinks. I know that many chefs like using cola with pork belly, as well as other carbonated drinks. I’m not really sure if carbonation does anything, especially considering the long cooking time. The flavours in cola are a good match for pork belly, but I changed things around for the suckling pig because the delicate flavour of this belly would be overwhelmed by the strong flavour of the cola. Cola would actually be an ingredient worth using more often if it were not for the heavy sweetness of the product. It works here because pork and pork fat combine well with sweet ingredients. Furthermore the sweetness is balanced not only by the bitterness in the cola, but also in the collard greens. The acidity of the wine is also helpful - just be sure to use a dry wine. The same goes for the apple cider in the suckling pig recipe, though ginger ale is a little less sweet than cola.

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