Jonesy is my new kitchen. I moved last Tuesday to a new unit in my building, this one possessing not only a separate living room and bedroom, but a kitchen with actual counter space and a dining nook to boot. The most exciting thing about this is that it gives me the wiggle room I need to try out some dishes which I've been dying to attempt and which have been stymied by Bob's difficulty. I mean, there are only so many things you can bring yourself to make on the floor.
So I figured a good way to see what Jonesy was made of would be to tackle a slab of meat I've been eagerly hoarding in my fridge for over a week: pork belly.
I love pork. I picked up a 3 pound skin-on pork belly from the Cedarbrook Farm stand at the Dupont Circle Farmers' market. Know your meat purveyors -- pork belly isn't always in stock, and if you take a minute to talk to them you'll have an easier time knowing when to get to market early. It took four tries to get my hands on one, but that was due more to sloth and hangovers than lack of information. Once I got it home, I started to wonder: what do I do with this? Pork belly is not just given to many delicious cooking methods yielding tender flesh and crispy, salty skin, it is also the part of the pig with which you make bacon and other salt-cured delights. This thing has potential. The only obvious part was to cut it in to smaller parts.
I'm enjoying the Jamie Oliver cookbook right now, and he had a couple slow-roasted crispy-skin pork belly recipes. The shortest looked succulent, if not for the fennel that was to accompany it. I hate fennel. I have a gag-reflex-inducing dislike of any and all things licorice flavored. I promise you all, I have tried to get over it. It never works. Luckily, I also have a a Mom who's a good cook, and an appointment with Comcast between 2-5 p.m. on Wednesday. And so, with some brainstorming, I made:
Crispy Roasted Allspice Pork Belly with Kohlrabi and Carrots (for two) (method adapted from COOK with Jamie Oliver)
3 Tbsp ground allspice
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper
1 - 1 1/2 lb. piece of pork belly, skin on
2-4 bulbs of kohlrabi
5-6 whole carrots, peeled and cut into pieces as big as your middle finger
5-6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 bottle of dry white wine
Preheat your oven to its highest setting that's not "broil." (Usually 500 degrees)
Combine first three ingredients in a bowl and mix. Adjust the spices to your liking, but make it strong. Then, using your absolute sharpest knife score fatty skin side of the pork belly, every 1/2 inch or so. The scores should go horizontally across the width (not length) of your belly. Make sure you score all the way through the fat down to the meat below. I was not able to do this, and in the end my pork belly turned out only good and not Oh My God, That's Amazing. Once you're good and scored, rub the seasoning mixture deeply and generously into the grooves. Rub extra over the rest of the meat.
Peel and quarter carrots and kohlrabi. Mix with the unpeeled garlic, toss with olive oil and season to taste in your roasting pan. Arrange them so they're covering the pan (any good roasting vegetables will work with this, so feel free to add anything to your taste). Place pork belly on top of the vegetables, so that the meat doesn't touch the roasting pan. Place pan in the oven.
Roast the pork at 500 degrees for 10 minutes (to start the skin crisping), then turn your oven down to 325 and let it roast for a another hour. Remove pan from oven and drain the excess fat (try to get as much of it as possible). Add the wine to the pan. Put pan back in oven, roast for another hour.
Remove the vegetables from the pan to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pork belly to the over and roast for another hour. If the wine evaporates away, add more (or water). After an hour check on the belly. If it looks not tender enough, or if you want more color on it, or if you want crispier skin, you can roast it for up to 4 hours total (at this point you're at the 3 hour mark).
(I roasted mine for 3 1/2 hours.)
Let rest for 10 minutes, pull apart with a fork and knife. Put your veg on the bottom, pork on top, and spoon some of the liquid left in the roasting pan over it.
(You can make a quick sauce out of the bits left behind if there's no liquid -- just add wine or water, deglaze and reduce. Sauce!)
My pork belly, because it wasn't properly scored, did not render enough fat out by the time I was done cooking it. Don't get me wrong -- it smelled and tasted delicious, the meat was incredibly tender and rich, but there were still layers of fat that should have rendered more. And another problem with my insufficient scoring was that the skin did not turn into crispy flakiness, but actually hardened into what I can best describe as a thick candy shell. It's because, for lack of sharpness, I wasn't able to score it as closely -- my cuts were half and inch apart. The more you score, the flakier the skin is. Some of the skin was fine, quite easy to chew, and absolute salty deliciousness, but put it this way: I'm glad I have another 1 1/2 pounds of skin-on pork belly. I'm gonna take my knives to the sharpener, play around with the rub, and give this one another go.
For this round, though, my friend and I ranked it a B. And that's not bad.