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January’s Third Thursday – The Belly of the Pig January 21, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in random stuff.
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My goodness how time flies!  Can you believe another month has gone by so quickly, and it’s already the Third Thursday of January?  We should be about ready to get back to normal or – whatever passes for “normal!”

This month, I’d like to introduce you to a food blog that I’ve occasionally stumbled across – I enjoy it, and I keep intending to go back to it, then I forget about it, until I stumble across it again.  Then I figured out the Google Reader, so I get (mostly) daily updates to The Paupered Chefjust what I need!

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So one day last month, I happened upon the Paupered Chef’s  Red-Braised Pork Belly, and, well, I knew what this month’s Third Thursday challenge was going to be!

Can you get pork belly in your supermarkets?  You know, the cut of pork used for bacon.  I’ve never seen it in a regular grocery store – not ever.  It’s (supposedly) more available in Asian markets, but to be honest, most of the Asian markets I’ve been in, I’d have to think long and hard about buying meat there.  Fortunately, we do have a vendor at that public market who regularly stocks pork belly for $2 a pound – you really can’t go wrong there, can you?

Never mind that, when all is said and done, it’s almost all fat – it’s a good fat – it’s fatty like bacon is fatty!  And it’s certainly not intended to be an every-week treat – just the once.  (Or maybe twice. )

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Anyway, I followed the blanching directions given – after all, there’s nothing wrong with getting rid of some of the impurities in the meat, is there?  After blanching, we cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, being sure (mostly) that each piece had a layer of each meat, fat and skin.

(I know, but we eat chicken skin, don’t we?  And really, is it so different?  That’s what I told myself, and it does help.)

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So we got our pork blanched, then cut into little-bitty bits.

Now we’re going to brown the daylights out of it.  We hauled out a trusty dutch oven and heated just a splash of oil until it’s close to rippin’ hot – you want to almost see it smoking.

I think peanut oil is probably more authentic, but we used canola.  Peanut oil may have a little higher smoke point, but canola oil was right there in the house.

Here’s the thing.  You know how, if you stick bacon in a hot pan, it splatters?  Yeah, this was worse – I probably should have dried it off better after blanching it.  I had to use Windex to clean off my glasses when we were done with this step.  So anyway.  We browned the meat in batches – about half at a time – in a single layer.  Let the meat brown without moving for, oh, say, 2-3 minutes, then turn it to brown each other side.

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While the meat was browning, we just whacked a couple of scallions into quarters and dug out a half of  a single star anise.  Neither of us had ever used star anise before.  While I am something of a licorice junkie (as is the dog!), Peeps is not a big fan of anise, so we were a little concerned about using it at all.  But heck, it was only half a, um, half a star.  How strong can that be?

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In hindsight, we should have drained some of the fat from pot before dumping the meat back in, but, well, next time.  Along with the meat, scallions and star anise, we added:

  • a couple of cups of fresh chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. “dark soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp.  dry sherry
  • a scant teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 cube of frozen ginger root (the original recipe did say to just crush a hunk of ginger and let it braise, but, um, I forgot to get fresh ginger, and I had plenty of grated in the freezer, so there you go.)

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And that was it.  Just bring it up to a boil, then move it to the back burner and let it simmer ever-so slowly.

Uncovered.  What we’re going for is for that pint of chicken stock plus brown sugar to eventually become a glaze.

We were puttering around most of the day anyway, so it was a simple matter to just check on it and stir it every couple of hours or so.

All in all, I’d say we left the pork belly to braise for, oh, 5 or 6 hours.

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What had started as hunks of fatty meat swimming around in chicken stock became . . .well, let me tell you how the original guy reviewed it:

The result was porky gloriousness. It is very rich and concentrated, and best consumed as part of a whole meal of Chinese dishes, such as stir-fried greens and a mountain of rice.

Yup.  That about sums it up – rich, porky gloriousness.

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Peeps sauteed a bunch of kale, and we cooked a “mountain of rice” – and it was absolutely To Die For (probably quite literally!).   I don’t think this is something that we should be enjoying often, though – but you know what?

I’ll bet I could pick up some ribs (something with a little saner pork-to-fat ratio), and I’ll just bet it would work almost as well.    After all, the process itself was, well, it was STUPID EASY!

Hmmm. . .

So . . . what have you been trying from other blogs this month?

If you want to play along, the Third Thursday Guidelines are right here – just send me an email with the information, and we’ll highlight any participants on Tuesday!

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Comments

1. sjbraun - January 21, 2010

I always learn something interesting here – pork belly? Never bought one. Star anise? Very cool; never knew it existed. I know one thing for sure: I wish I lived closer; I’d love to eat at your place!

Here’s my Third Thursday:
http://girlsinwhitedresses.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/chipotle-chicken-and-tomato-soup/

Aww. . . I’d love to have you, too. 🙂 If you ever find yourself on this end of the country (hey, you never know!) you’ve got an open invitation. 😉

2. josé - January 21, 2010

I can understand you like this dish. I make something similar without the star anise, which is called “babi ketjap”. Ketjap is the Indonesian name for dark soy sauce, babi means pork. Babi ketjap is one of my favorite dishes. Since I live in Holland, we eat Indonesian regularly. Babi Ketjap is even more tastier the next day. I’m sure if you google, you’ll find a receipe in English. In Holland you can find pork belly (ready diced or not) in every supermarket, so I wouldn’t worry about eating it.

Thanks, José, for visiting, and for your comments. I did do a google search, and babi ketjap does sound really delicious.

And here I was proud of myself for finding pork belly at all – and you can get it ready diced? To be honest, I consider myself lucky to find lard in our supermarkets!


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