Friday, April 26, 2013

Roasted Garlic Pork Belly

I gave you my two cents about bacon in a recent post. Is it paleo? Is it not? Will either response keep me from eating bacon? The answer to the last is a resounding no. I will gnaw someone in half to get to bacon. In fact, if Denny's wasn't so horribly nonpaleo in pretty much everything it serves, I'd consider going there just to take part in its holiday Baconalia (and yes, I chuckled when I heard this ad on the radio... because it's like Bacchanalia, get it? Oh Denny's, appealing to the nerds among us...). Not surprisingly, since you can make bacon out of any cut of pork, conversely you can do any number of things with a side of pork belly! Today I'll show you my recipe for roasted garlic pork belly. Admittedly, this particular batch was a little too fatty, even for me. But you can find portions of pork side that have higher ratio of meat to fat than this one did. Sure made some amazing eating though... despite feeling a little ill afterwards...

So! You start off with raw pork that looks like it should be bacon (the picture shows about 1.7 lbs of pork belly). You may or may not be able to find this in your grocery store. Since Oahu (and Hawaii in general) has such a high population of people from different parts of Asia, and pork in its various cuts is a dietary staple, I easily pick it up at the commissary. Elsewhere, you may have to check out Whole Foods or a local butcher. If they don't have it, they can definitely order it. And it's well worth it.

First, use a very sharp knife and slice the skin in a cross hatch pattern. It not only looks pretty, but allows you to get nice crispy edges on the skin as it roasts. Yes you should leave the skin on. No it's not weird to eat real pig skin. If you've never been into sports, throw it about your kitchen and pretend you played football once. Now, mix 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp dried sage or fresh sage, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 2 tsp chopped garlic or two to three crushed and chopped cloves of garlic and pretty much whatever the hell else you want. You might be able to see the small spice jar without a lid on the right. That's Wegman's BBQ seasoning mix, which is perfect for this. If you are a sad human being and you don't have a Wegman's nearby, find some other BBQ or similar seasoning mix and douse your pork belly with that too. Trust me, it can only make it better. Once you've rubbed the pork down with your spice mixture, making sure to get it into all the crosshatches in the skin, put it and any remaining or additional spices you want into a casserole dish. This will release a lot of juice and fat, so make sure you have enough room for this to cook (e.g. don't put it on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan).

We have a midget grill...
Put this in an oven at 450 deg F for about a half hour to get it nice and hot and crispy, then reduce the heat to 350. Now slow roast this to perfection for at least 1.5 to 2 hours. If you're like me and don't care about added sugar in the form of maple syrup or molasses, drizzle some on top when you reduce the temperature to 350. It adds a great sweet flavor but also gets gooey on the pig skin for the grand finale. Time consuming? Yes. Incredibly delicious? You bet your sweet bippy.

Now, if you're like me and slow roasting just isn't enough, you can finish cooking this masterpiece on the grill. Besides, if you're working on a painting, you don't just slap on paint when you're almost done just to put an end to it. You finesse it. And grilling pork belly is definitely the right kind of finesse. So, after the two hours are up, slap the strips on a grill for a few minutes on each side to crisp it up. It shouldn't fall apart as would a pot roast, but be gentle. You don't want to ruin the most amazing thing you're going to eat all week.

Like I mentioned above, I was a bit ill after eating all this, because it had SO much fat. Did that stop me from eating it? Of course not. But in retrospect, I would get a leaner cut next time. But nothing beats that first crispy, sweet, gooey bite. And from there, it's all downhill. I paired this with some butternut squash and (of course) bacon roasted in the oven on the rack below the pork belly. Dave was doing some serious work between crossfit and PT so the extra carbs were necessary for him. I'm sure meals like this are why I only maintain weight... But I'm okay with that. Good, real food is hard to come by these days, and I'm not about to ignore the fruits of my labor when they take so long to produce. Admittedly this recipe is not for those who don't have hours on end to cook. BUT! I would recommend for the temporally challenged to put their pork belly and seasonings into a crock pot, turn it on low all day, and then come home and grill or broil the end result. Same idea, just less work! The pork will cook in its juices just the same as it would in the oven! Problem solved!

I am not a recipe genius. I will be the first to admit. My recipe is inspired by the countless other posts when googling "paleo pork belly," and especially this post from Modern Paleo Warfare. **WARNING this website is full of obscenity and references to sexy meat. Don't say I didn't warn you.** I'd love to meet these guys across the pond. Their posts are hilarious if infrequent. Check out their blog for other great recipes of the paleo persuasion.

So that's it for today! Two posts in one day! I'm spent! Let me know what you think in the comments!


Meg said...

I missed my trip to the farmer's market this weekend, but as soon as i make it back, i'm going to my pork guy and making this! (yes, there's a pork guy, who supplies nothing but local organic pork, and you can get just about anything you want)

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