One of the courses in Sunday’s Brunch, Booze + Bagpipes was pork belly, ‘stilo Italiano’.
Pork Belly is a boneless slab of fatty meat cut from (you guessed it) the belly of the pig. What differentiates it from bacon is the butchering and the various cooking methods. It’s clearly not a dish one should eat frequently or in nothing more than a small portion … but, mamma mia, it is delicious!
It’s very popular in Asian fusion restaurants and most of the recipes found online tend to embrace those flavors as well. But I knew I wanted to take mine to the Mediterranean so I created my own flavor profile and accompaniments. Here’s the ‘recipe’ for all 3 components, each of which adds distinct levels of flavor. Together they compliment each other.
I got the pork belly on special order from my local supermarket. They also cut it into twelve 2″ portions (3.5 lbs.) per my request and then even scored it for me. Yea, Publix!
Preparing the meat
Season with salt and pepper. Make a umami paste and rub it into all sides and into scores; cover with plastic and refrigerate. Overnight is recommended, but I did about 3 hours which I think is sufficient time.
chopped celery, onion, fennel, tomatoes, garlic, carrot, parsley, dried imported mushrooms, 32 ozs. chicken broth, water, white wine
Cook for 1 hour until vegetables are softened; add 1 cup white wine, bring to a boil and simmer for additional 1/2 hour. Puree* with immersion blender.
After refrigeration/marination, sear pork fat side down, then on all sides.
Pour hot braising liquid over meat and put in preheated oven (covered) at 300-325 degrees for about 3 hours if cut in small pieces like this; much longer if cooking slab whole.
Separate meat from sauce and refrigerate overnight.
*key step in intensifying flavors and making rich sauce
Cook the beans in chicken broth* (diluted by water if more liquid is needed) and garlic*. Half-way through, add about a handful of little pieces of cheese rind* (Parmigiano Reggiano). I salt after it’s cooked and just sitting in the pot cooling down. Cool and blend to a puree with olive oil. Adjust seasoning, if needed.
*key ingredients in adding lots of flavor
I wanted to use plum tomatoes, but the ones in the market that day weren’t as nice as the grape variety. Toss with olive oil, a little salt, chili flakes and brown sugar; add a few capfuls of Italian Sweet Vermouth. Bake at 300 degrees for about an hour.
I did all 3 components the day before. The next day I brought everything to room temperature. The beans were quickly heated in microwave and the pork belly was placed in high temperature oven for about 10-15 minutes and then under broiler for a few minutes to crisp skin.
Note: Because the cannellini beans were so creamy, the delicious thick sauce created from the braising liquid was kind of superfluous for this meal. It is stored in the freezer for some future use.