Pork belly. To me, it conjures up memories of rich, decadent and deeply flavorful dishes at upscale restaurants. To others, it’s a total mystery. I’ve often received a blank stare when I mention it. “Pork belly?” they ask. “I’ve never eaten that. What’s it like?” I bet that even if you think you haven’t, you actually have had it before – ever tried bacon? Bacon is often derived from pork belly. But using an entire pork belly is a different story, so I set out to find some. It was illusive at first, as it’s not written on any signage in grocery stores or farmer’s markets that I visited. Once I started asking vendors, it was a whole other story.
My local pork farmer, Bledsoe Natural Pork, doesn’t bring it to the farmer’s market unless it’s requested because it requires such a cold temperature to stay fresh. I checked with a local grocery store, Nugget Market, who does sell it and for an astonishingly cheap price. I scooped up a few pounds and went to work looking for a way to prepare it. We didn’t need to look far – the Momofuku cookbook has wonderful ideas for pork belly. Not surprising, considering that pork belly is very popular in Korean and Chinese cuisine.
Using the Momofuku cooking technique, Russ created a simple braised pork belly with some fantastic baked beans. By baking the beans in the rendered pork fat along with ketchup and brown sugar, he created a deeply flavorful side dish that was both savory and sweet at the same time.
Braised Pork Belly with Baked Beans
- 3 lbs. skin-on pork belly
- 8 C water
- 1 1/4 C kosher slat
- 1/2 C honey
- 14 bay leaves
- 4 T whole uncracked black pepper
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed and skin left on
- Rendered fat from braised pork belly
- 40 oz. canned pinto beans
- 1 1/2 C ketchup
- 3/4 C brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Braised Pork Belly: Combine all the ingredients for brine in a large stock pot and place pork belly inside, ensuring it is completely covered by brine. Place pot in refrigerator for at least 5 hours but no more than 10 hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove pork from brine and score the skin*. Place in a large baking dish skin or fat side up, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and roast for 1 hour, basting halfway through. After 1 hour, lower temperature to 250°F and roast for another hour and 15 minutes.
Let meat rest at room temperature until cool enough to handle, then place in refrigerator until ready to serve. (Don’t clean the baking dish – you will use it to make the baked beans.)
Once ready to serve, heat a very lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat. Cut meat to pieces that are 1/2″ thick and 2″ wide. Sautee until lightly browned on both sides and serve immediately alongside beans.
Baked Beans: Keep the oven at 250°F. Using the same baking dish from roasting the pork belly, add the beans, ketchup, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bake 30-45 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Serve immediately.
*We recommend taking the skin off at this point. We left it on because too much of the fat was coming off with it, but the meat ended up not being as tender as we would have liked.