Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry, Merry Pork Belly

For Christmas Eve (well, technically it’s Children’s Day Eve in our house, but that’s another story) dinner I prepared a decadent braised pork belly dish. Although I love pork belly, I’d never cooked it before so I checked out a variety of recipes online. After searching through many tempting concoctions, I decided to adapt this recipe for Japanese braised pork belly to my own liking.

1 pound of pork belly
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup of chopped shallots
¼ cup of sake
¼ cup of soy sauce
Dash of Chinese five-spice

Sesame oil

For those of you who don’t know, pork belly is a cut of meat taken from the belly of a pig—you probably know it best in its incarnation as bacon. For this recipe you’ll want to start off with about a pound of pork belly and dice it into cubes. 

Next heat a large pot to medium high heat and placed the pieces of pork belly in the pot. Although there is enough fat on the pork belly to eliminate the need for oil, you can add just a little bit of sesame oil for flavor.

After about four minutes of sautéing the pork belly add a tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger and a quarter-cup of chopped shallots. Stir the ingredients together for about 30 seconds.

Turn the heat down to about medium and add three tablespoons of sugar to the pot, allowing the sugar to mix with the fat and caramelize. It’s important to keep a close eye on the dish at this point and not allow the sugar to burn. The sugar should turn a light brown color, but if it begins to burn it will ruin the flavor of the dish.

After the sugar has caramelized and coated all the beautiful little pieces of pork belly, add just enough water to cover the meat. Next mix in a quarter-cup of soy sauce, a quarter-cup of sake, and a dash of Chinese five-spice. Reduce the heat to low and allow the pork belly to simmer for about two hours. 

The results should be spectacular. If the liquid simmers away too quickly, just add a little more as needed. At our own dinner table, my “vegetarian” mom even took a couple bites of pork belly, and she loved it. How can you resist this tender, unctuous, savory dish? Merry, merry pork belly, everyone!

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