Asian Braised Pork Belly with Pickled Radishes
March 27, 2014 • Meat & Poultry
Earlier this month I snagged tickets to the Cochon555 event in Denver. It’s part of the Cochon tour – an overall organization with a mission to teach the world about heritage breed pigs. I buy pork directly from my organic CSA, Monroe Farms, and am thrilled with the Berkshires they raise. The meat just tastes better than the bland store-bought pork you’ll find that’s been commercially raised. So in a rare moment of cosmic timing in the universe, I picked up my most recent pig from the butcher on March 1st, made pancetta and braised pork belly on March 8th, went to Cochon555 on March 9th, then ate this for dinner on March 10thâ€¦and then again for lunch on March 11th and then again for lunch on March 12th, because it was that good.Cochon brings together 5 chefs to compete by cooking a whole hog – that’s Paul Reilly from Beast and Bottle (Zimmerman Pork Farm – Chester White), but also competing were Justin Brunson of Old Major (Mcdonald Farms – Duroc), Bill Greenwood of Beanoâ€™s Cabin (Rocky Bottom Ranch – Large Black), Steve Redzikowski of OAK at fourteenth (Cone Ranch – Duroc), and this year’s winner, James Beard Award Winning Chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja/Bistro Vendome/Euclid Hall (Cone Ranch – Berkshire).Through the allotted 90 minute feeding frenzy, each chef put out about 8-10 things to sample, using as much of the pig as possible, and showcasing the superior tastes of heritage breed pigs. Five winemakers (and lots of mixed drink purveyors) serve up libations while you hop from one tasting table line to the next.There was also a live butchering demo on a whole hog and a pop up butcher shop selling those cuts on the spot. I was in heaven at an event like this, so it’s no surprise that I was inspired before even going to get in the kitchen and cook some pork.I actually have two bellies in my freezer, so I had already decided to make my homemade pancetta with one of them. It’s resting nicely in its curing spices in the garage refrigerator.Almost every chef I’ve seen serves pork belly with a quite thick layer of the fat on top of the sliced cooked meat. I just find that to be too much fat, so instead I like to slow braise the pork the day before, remove it from the braising liquid and cut off any unrendered large layers of fat, and the return the meat to the braising liquid and refrigerate it overnight. This allows a substantial amount of rendered pork fat to float to the top (as you see in the storage container above) and it can be easily removed prior to finishing your dish (which really just requires a simple reheat in the microwave or on the stove).I think quick pickled radishes complement the Asian flavors in this dish, and they are simple to make. I’ve included that recipe along with the pork belly.My husband on more occasions than you might think says my cooking is just too over the top – he’d rather eat a simple pasta dish or a bowl of green chile. But he actually went back for seconds on this one. The soy-mirin broth is strongly flavored, so it’s best to serve the pork with simple white rice, and the green onions and pickled radishes give it some freshness and a nice bite. I have that entire other pork belly in the freezer – perhaps I should just make the whole thing like this for next year’s New Year’s Eve dinner for friends?!
- 4 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 8x8-inch piece of pork belly, uncured, skin removed (about 1 pound)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 large garlic clove, smashed
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
- White rice, for serving
- Combine the stock, soy sauce, miring, ginger, and garlic in a Dutch oven and stir to combine ingredients. Add the pork belly (it should be submerged under the liquid), cover, and cook at 300 degrees for 4 hours.
- Remove the pork from the braising liquid and when cool enough to handle, cut off and discard and large layers of fat still remaining on the pork belly. If the belly is not fork tender, return it to the braising liquid and cook for another hour. When the pork is tender, refrigerate the pork in the braising liquid overnight.
- Combine the white vinegar, water, sugar, and garlic clove and bring to a boil. Add the radishes and cook for 1 minute, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (or up to a week).
- To serve, remove the layer of fat from the pork and discard it before reheating the pork and braising liquid. Slice the meat (or serve it in large pieces) and serve over white rice. Spoon some of the braising liquid over the top and garnish with the green onions and pickled radishes.