Sunday, January 22, 2012

Easy is good ... and so is roasted pork belly

I think I went on a cooking overload when I did 3 dinner parties in 7 days - Wednesday night, Friday night and Tuesday night. I don't recommend it unless you are a professional chef and are used to the hours and the heat in the kitchen.

After planning the menus and cooking on Wednesday and Friday night, I was a little lost at what to cook for Tuesday night. Fortunately, I had suggested roasted pork belly at a different night and so the main was set. Then The Boy requested truffle mashed potatoes to go with the pork belly, and I threw in some green stuff just 'cos it's good for you.

The menu turned out like this:

Starter was a Morrocan Vegetable Soup (I'll write about this another time), followed by Roasted Pork Belly, Truffle Mashed Potatoes and Garlic Sautéed Broccoli for main. Dessert was courtesy of Angelo, so all I had to do was provide homemade ice cream as an accompaniment - Vanilla and Caramel.

Angelo, one of the boys, is a particular fan of pork belly. In fact, he told us this story (I do not recommend anyone do this!) of how he found a pâtisserie that served a pork belly and brie baguette that was delicious, in fact so delicious that he ate it twice a day, everyday for 3 weeks straight. At the end of the 3 weeks, his blood pressure was through the roof. The moral of this story? Too much of a good thing can be bad for you!!

Anyway, Angelo asked if the pork belly was easy to make and could he do it himself. I told him that yes, it was super easy to make and explained it to him at the dining table while we ate. He was surprised at how easy the whole thing was.

Here's the RECIPE for roasted pork belly:

  • 1 slab of pork belly according to number of people to be served (200g per person)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 6 – 8 large onions


Preparing the pan:
  • Oil a roasting pan with spray oil
  • Cut up onions into quarters and place in centre of pan

Preparing the pork belly:
  • Defrost pork belly and let sit to room temperature. Dry the skin of the pork belly with some paper towels and then gently rub a little bit of vinegar onto it. Any vinegar will do, since this is just to make sure that the skin is very, very dry
  • Score the skin of the pork belly in a crosshatch pattern using a knife – the cuts to be deep enough to penetrate to the fat layer below the skin
  • Pour a generous amount of olive oil to cover pork belly surface
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on top of olive oil
  • Massage oil and salt thoroughly into skin

Cooking the pork belly:
  • Heat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Heat a saucepan with some olive oil and sear all sides of the pork belly (including crackling) until golden brown, remove from pan
  • Place pork belly on top of onions and roast in oven for 30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes check temp in middle of pork belly (should be 70 degrees C)
  • If it is not up to 70 degrees C, put back into oven to continue roasting
  • After 15 minutes, repeat step 4 until middle of pork belly reaches 70 degrees C
  • When at right temp, take out of oven and stand pork belly for 10 – 20 minutes
  • Remove crackling, slice and serve with hot gravy and red cabbage relish

Since I was feeding the boys and I wanted enough to have some for them to take away for leftovers, I ordered a 2kg slab of pork belly. That was a mistake because the slab of pork belly was wider than my oven. It's just a good idea to make sure that the piece of meat is going to fit into the oven. I know I could have halved it and put it into two trays, but I have a stupid, small oven and I needed the second shelf for the mashed potatoes. On top of that, I did not have enough onions (stupid me, I didn't check my onion supply, which I had exhausted after cooking so much) and only had 4 onions instead of 8 to rest the pork belly in. That was not too much of a problem, but I'm a perfectionist and that did not make me happy.

In spite of all that, the pork belly turned out well and the boys loved it. I would have preferred that it was a little bit better, but then I'm much more exacting on myself and The Boy and everyone else did say it was a superb dinner.

Oh, to do with the pork belly, I made red cabbage relish. Here's the RECIPE:

Ingredients for Relish:
  • ½ red cabbage
  • 2 cups of red wine vinegar (or enough to cover the cabbage in a small pot
  • 2 tablespoons of raw / brown sugar

Ingredients for apple sauce:
  • 2 small red apples, skinned and cored, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of raw/ brown sugar

Instructions for Relish:
  • Cut up red cabbage into thin 1 inch slices
  • Put in small pot
  • Cover with red wine vinegar and put in sugar
  • Put over low flame and cook, checking regularly it does not get too dry for 1 hour
  • Cover and cook over low flame for another hour
  • Put in oven and braise slowly in 80 degrees C heat for another 2 hours

Instructions for apple sauce:
  • Put apples into small pot
  • Put in sugar and cover with water
  • Cook gently until soft ( can put in oven if preferred)

Final step:
  • When relish and apple sauce is ready, combine and serve

Note: the cabbage can be made a few days ahead and just put in the fridge and served when you are ready to eat.

The relish is a fantastic accompaniment to the pork belly. In fact, it is so yummy, I was eating the stuff on it's own. It's got a lovely, slighty salty, slightly sweet, slightly sour flavor that's very more-ish. You can't quite figure out the flavor but you just want to keep eating more of it. The Boy said it smelled like sauerkraut when cooking but it really does not taste anything that like because to me sauerkraut just tastes like sour boiled cabbage.

Remember! Everything in moderation!!! Or do what The Father did when I invited him and The Mother to dinner and cooked the same dish - eat half the slab of pork belly as a compliment to the cook.

Do you have any meat that is a favorite? Any meat you don't eat? For health, personal or religious reasons? Any meat you love and will eat all the time? What will you only eat occasionally? What's your "everyday" meat? What do you think of pork?

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