Consolation for Loserville

What a weekend. Most depressing sporting weekend that I can recall. Did our state take a beating or what? UGA, ugly loss. Tech, VERY ugly loss. Georgia Southern, loss. Georgia State, loss. Falcons, loss. Braves, loss, back in 2nd place. Tried to drown my sorrows, didn’t work as usual. Needed a pick me up and despite the continual heat, decided to assault my pancreas further with the first braise of the year.

Caveat, this was my first attempt at “fresh bacon” or pork belly. Last week whist cruising South Augusta (a less than scenic area for those of y’all who aren’t from around here), I hopped into a local meat market out of shear curiosity. The counters were littered with the typical South Augusta fare (low quality meats, cuts of pork you’d rather not eat, chitterlings and such), but they did have slab bacon, so I inquired about pork belly. Indeed, they had some, “belly”, albeit frozen, I procured about a 6 lb slab. Fortunately, the belly had skin-on, which protected the meat from the freezer, and (un)fortunately, there were also ribs attached to the underside that I had to remove. The rib removal went smoothly, initially I was afraid I’d remove too much belly meat, but apparently, a few years of rat/mice surgery has improved my knife skills considerably.

There are many recipes for pork belly, many of which require days of brining and pressing the meat, which likely improves the dish, but I wanted to see what would happen with a simple braise. Thus, no recipe, just went to work in the usual braising fashion.

First, I browned the skin side of the belly in my favorite braising vessel and transferred to a plate (not shown).

Next, I added some mirepoix, garlic, herbs D’Provence, salt and pepper and sauteed until tender and aromatic.

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I added 2 cups of veal stock and topped with the belly.

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I topped this with a parchment lid and tossed into a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. I added another cup of stock at the 90 minute mark and let it go another 1 1/2 hours.

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I let the belly cool in the braising liquid, then removed the skin and scored the fat in a crosshatch pattern. I strained the solids and let the belly soak in the braising liquid until we were ready to eat.

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I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and I removed the belly and cut into serving size portions (had way too many for even 8 to 10 people). I also defatted the sauce with a ladel. Next, returned the pieces, fat side up to the pan and poured in about 1/2 of the sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. I baked for 15 minutes, then turned the broiler to high and let it go until the fat was golden, brown, and delicious (about 5 minutes more).

I served over stone-ground grits augmented with Greek yogurt (hey, it’s what I had on hand) and sauteed shitake mushrooms.

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One bite, and you knew you were eating something you weren’t supposed to. It was such a crappy weekend, I ate 2 pieces. Chase with a Lipitor and some pancreatic enzymes…this isn’t a dish for the health conscious.

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