BBQ’d Pork Belly

50 Comments

Pork Belly is one of my top ten favorite foods. I would call it a guilty pleasure but there’s absolutely no guilt involved. It’s pure pleasure.

If you’ve never experienced pork belly, it’s really not scary – especially compared to other delicacies like snails or brains. It’s just a fatty chunk of a pig’s belly. If you eat bacon, it’s not too different except that bacon is cured.

Up to now I’ve only had pork belly in restaurants, so I’m excited to make my own. I didn’t realize my local butcher shop sold it until I was purchasing pig skin for my slow-roasted pork experiment, and he was wrapping pork belly around a pork loin to sell. (Yum!)

Pork belly can be grilled over coals, slow roasted in the oven, and even braised. It’s a matter of cooking the meat of the belly, sometimes by poaching first, but then crisping the fatty side by roasting or pan frying.

I’m not terribly adept at the grill, plus I dislike being hot while cooking, so I decided to cook the pork belly inside. With the weather disgustingly hot warm, and the appeal of ice cold beer, I though a barbequed version sounded perfect.

Barbecued Pork Belly

2 pound slab of skinless pork belly
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground Ancho chile pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground Chipotle chile pepper

Bring the pork belly to room temperature, and make sure it’s dry.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Mix together the seasonings, then season both sides of the pork belly. Rub in well.


Wrap the belly tightly with heavy-duty foil. Place into a roasting pan, with the fat side up. Cook in the oven for 5 hours. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator.

Unwrap the foil, discard, then re-wrap the pork belly with foil, covering the bottom and sides, leaving only the fat side exposed.

Brush with barbecue sauce; my favorite is Head Country brand – both original and hickory. Trust me, I prefer to make my own barbeque sauces, but this brand is of exceptional quality.

Roast the pork belly in the oven until it’s nice and browned, brushing more sauce if desired. This will take about 10 minutes.

You can see and hear the sizzling! Remove from the oven and either let cool and slice, or let cool and refrigerate.

I served the pork belly with a simple potato salad in a vinaigrette.

Summer on a plate? I don’t know, but it was an exceptional meal.

Just a note – my fatty side was not crispy cracklin’ like pork belly can be, because I brushed it with sauce. But that was okay. When I made the slow-roasted pork shoulder with pig skin, I discovered I wasn’t really fond of cracklings.

If you want the serious cracklin’, omit the barbecue sauce, roast the fatty side, and just serve the sauce on the side.

Roasted Pork Shoulder

70 Comments

I recently read Nigella Lawson’s last cookbook, published in 2017, called At My Table.

It didn’t seem to grab me like her previous 87 books, or however many she’s churned out over the years, but then, after I was done, I realized how many recipes I bookmarked.

The recipes weren’t terribly fancy, but that’s not her style in the first place. And it seemed like half of the dishes were sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, like she’d been studying Ottolenghi’s cookbooks at the time of writing hers.

But again, I did bookmark a lot of recipes. And the first I wanted to make was her roasted pork shoulder. Why you may ask? It’s because when I cook with pork shoulder or butt, I’m usually making chile verde or pulled pork in the slow cooker. This pork shoulder is roasted in the oven.

To quote Ms. Lawson about her recipe: “As far as I’m concerned this is the easiest route to a lazy weekend feast.”

What I didn’t realize, was how challenging it would be to find a boneless, skin-on pork shoulder. I even called D’Artagnan and Lobel’s in New York City.

So I bought a de-boned pork shoulder (I even got resistance from the butcher for that request) and covered it on one wide with pork rind that I purchased from a different butcher.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
With caramelized garlic and ginger

2 heads garlic
5.5 pounds boneless and skin-on pork shoulder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw unfiltered apple cider

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut off the tops of the 2 heads of garlic, so that you can just see the cloves peeking through, and sit each scalped head of garlic, cut-side up, on a piece of foil large enough for you to be able to pull up the ends and scrunch them together to form a parcel.

Put both parcels in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes, by which time the cloves will be soft and caramelized, then remove from the oven and leave to cool, still wrapped in their foil parcels – this could take up to 3 hours.

Then, 7 1/2 hours before you want to eat, take the pork out of the fridge for about an hour to get the chill off it, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.


While you wait, unwrap the two parcels of garlic, and squeeze the bulbs to push the sticky caramelized cloves out into a bowl. Add the ginger, soy, and vinegar and mix together.

Sit the pork, skin-side up, and spread the garlic and ginger paste into the pocket where the bone was. If there’s any residue left in the bowl, you can smear this gently around the sides, but make sure you don’t let any get on the skin.

I cut some of the pork skin I purchased to fit the top of the shoulder. You can see it under the pork. I used a few ties of string to secure it once the paste was inside the pork.

Pour some freshly-boiled water into the bottom of a roasting pan, just to cover the base by about 1/4 inch. Flip over the pork so that the skin is on top and roast in the oven for 5 hours. I brushed a little peanut oil over the pork skin.


After these 5 hours, gently baste the sides of the pork with the juices that have collected in the pan, then leave to roast for another hour.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and turn the oven up to 425 degrees F. Patiently spoon the juices into a wide-necked heatproof pitcher and return the pork to the hot oven for 30 minutes until the skin has turned crunchy.

Transfer the pork to a board. Spoon off the fat from top of the intense meaty juices in the pitcher; this should leave you with about 1 cup of the gingery and garlicky gravy. Check to see whether you need to reheat these juices and if you do, just warm them in a saucepan.


Remove the crisp skin and break into pieces. I cut a quite creative triangle for artistic plating.

Then carve, shred, or pull apart the meat, as wished. I sliced, and in this photo you can see the roasted garlic-ginger paste. There was a slight pinkishness to the roasted pork that didn’t show up in my other photos.

Transfer to a warmed dish and pour the meat juices over it, to serve.

The sauce is absolutely delicious. I wish there were more of it.

I was quite impressed with this slow roasted pork – tender and delicious. The next time, I won’t worry about skin, and the last 30 minutes at 425 degrees F won’t be necessary.


I also didn’t realize how much pork rind/skin shrinks, so I should have trimmed it much larger than I did, but it was still a fun experiment.

Fruited Duck Breasts

37 Comments

With Spring finally here, I wanted to make something inspired by what my mother made once for Easter, which was a leg of lamb with a dried fruit stuffing. The lamb was rolled around the bready stuffing and served sliced like pinwheels, showing off the lovely bits of dried fruit.

Being that my husband won’t eat lamb, I thought I could make something similar using duck, since I’d just received four duck breasts from D’Artagnan. That way, I’d only have to eat four duck breasts instead of a whole leg of lamb, because he won’t eat duck either. Another sacrifice for my blog.

People tend to be a little fearful of working with duck, but it’s really no different than a working with a steak. Primarily, the rule is to cook the duck medium-rare, which also applies to steak. The cooking process is the same: some searing on the outside in a hot skillet, and then a few minutes at a lower temperature to get the inside cooked to the proper temperature. Medium rare temperature for steak, lamb, and duck is 125 degrees. I also set my steaks out for at least an hour at room temperature before I cook them.

One difference with duck is the skin. It’s really thick, which is why ducks can hang out in freezing cold water, I imagine.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m leaving the skin attached to the duck breasts. I like the presentation. But duck skin can be removed, diced, and cooked just like you would bacon, for resulting cracklings. These can be added to a sauce, or even sprinkled over the duck breasts or your side dish, like sautéed spinach, for added flavor and texture. The skins can also be rendered for the sake of duck fat, if that is desired.

Duck has a significant flavor, which is a plus because it can stand up to some serious seasoning. Some think the flavor is gamey, but I disagree with that. Of course, maybe I like gamey. Plus, it might depend on the source of your duck.

Duck is often served with berries or cherries in a sauce, because the fruitiness and sweetness pairs well with the deeper duck flavor. So today I’m making a sauce for the duck, using dried fruits.

To season the duck breasts, I’m using ancho chile paste, that I made with anchos, guajillos and chipotles. It has quite a kick to it, and will really shine with the fruit sauce accompaniment.

Duck can be served with just about any green vegetable, like asparagus or green beans, and for side dishes, a rice pilaf or roasted potatoes would be lovely. Since I have a lot of duck to eat in the next few days, I’m keeping it simple, serving my duck breasts with steamed asparagus.

In today’s recipe, I’m including a sous vide step, which means the final step for me is to brown the duck breasts only; the cooking is already done. The most important thing is to make sure that when you’re pan-frying the duck breasts that you don’t overcook them.

So here’s the recipe I created for the duck breasts. You’ll see how easy it is to cook duck after this recipe!

Fruited Duck Breasts

4 duck breasts, with the skin attached
Salt
Pepper
Juice from 1 orange, strained
Ancho chile paste*, about 4 heaping teaspoons
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pat the duck breasts dry, and place them on your cutting board skin side up.
duck44

Season them with salt and pepper generously. Using a sharp knife, slice diagonally into the skin only, making about 5 diagonal lines, then making 5 more diagonal lines, forming diamond shapes. Try not to cut into the actual meat.
duck55
Place the breasts skin side up on a platter. Then pour the strained orange juice over the tops.
duck33
Using a spoon, place a heaping teaspoon of ancho chile paste on each duck breasts and spread it over the whole breast.

duck22
Then divide the teaspoon of ground cumin between them.
duck11
Let the breasts marinate for 30 minutes up to an hour.

Prepare the sous vide set at 131 degrees F.

When the sous vide is ready, place two breasts each in two vacuum sealable bags and seal.
duck9
Add them to the water and mark 3 hours on your clock.

At the 3 hour mark, remove the duck breasts from the sous vide.

duck8

Remove the breasts from the bags and place on paper towels to drain.

duck7

Since sous vide meat can’t sit around at room temperature, you need to work quickly. If you’re not making the duck breasts to serve within the next hour, refrigerate them first.

Add a teaspoon of oil in a skillet. I’m using my cast-iron skillet. Heat it up over high heat and turn on the ventilation system, because the fat will smoke.

When the oil is just smoking, add one or two duck breasts at a time, depending how big your skillet is. I start them skin-side down.

duck6

After a good minute, turn it or them over, and cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Remember, I’m only browning the breasts, not cooking them through.
duck5

After you’ve browned all four duck breasts, slice them crosswise for serving.

Pour a little of the fruit sauce over the top, and pass the rest around at the table.
duck1

Because of the length of this post, my sauce recipe will be posted tomorrow!

* If you don’t own any ancho chile paste, and don’t want to make it, recipe here, you have a couple of options. One is to use ground ancho chile pepper. You could also include a little ground chipotle pepper for a little more flavor. Or, buy a little can of chipotle peppers that come in adobo sauce, and use the sauce. Stay away from the actual chipotle peppers for this purpose, but if you love them, you could always chop one up finely and add it to the resulting sauce.

note: If you’re not doing the sous vide step, cook the duck breasts as you would a steak, searing both sides, then letting the center reach 125 degrees. At that point remove them from the skillet and place them on a plate. Cover them loosely with foil and let them rest for 15 minutes. Then slice and serve.