Sugar and Spice on Pork Belly is Nice

We have been a little bit obsessed by pork belly since we went to a food festival and tasted a teensy-weensy bite of a pork belly dish created by the chefs at Craftsteak. That was almost two years ago, but the memory has stuck with us so much that every time we see pork belly on a menu, we order it, and we watch anything on Food Network or Cooking Channel that even mentions pork belly.

What is pork belly? Pork belly is a boneless cut of fresh pork derived from the belly of a pig. It is a very fatty cut of meat in fact, but when it is cooked correctly, that fat is rendered down and melts into the most delicious thing you've ever tasted. (In our opinion, anyway.)

When we watched that long-ago demonstration by the chefs at Craftsteak, we jotted down notes on what to do. Looking back, they were almost indecipherable, but we decided to go with the flow and attempt our own version of pork belly based on theirs. How bad could it be? It's bacon, for goodness' sake! The most trouble we had was finding the stuff! It was difficult, but finally, we spotted a pound of it at a Portuguese butcher shop in Ludlow, Massachusetts. We (of course) bought it, and our plan was set into motion.

The elusive pork belly

The goal in our minds was to give the pork a sweet and spicy flavor. With that in mind, we rubbed it with a mixture of brown sugar, salt and Chinese five-spice powder. We wrapped it in cheesecloth and enclosed it in a zipper-bag (having squeezed the air out) in the fridge, allowing it to "marinate" in the rub for five days.
Rubbed and ready for wrapping

Into the refrigerator for five days it goes

Afer that, we rinsed and dried it off, then browned it in a frying pan, cured it in a 275-degree oven, allowed it to cool, and browned it once again before serving.

Rinsed and starting to brown

Hot out of the oven

Was it as good as Craftsteak's? Heck, no. But we're teachers, not award-winning celebrity chefs. With that in mind, was it good? Heck, yeah, it was. With flavors of sweet, salty, and spicy on the tongue, and crispy-on-the-outside/melted-on-the-inside pork fat, one or two bites was all you needed, but it left you wanting more. We'll be experimenting with pork belly very soon, well, as soon as we can find some again!

Sugar and Spice Pork Belly

2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 pound pork belly
oil for frying

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt and five-spice. Score the skin of the pork belly, then rub all of the spice mixture over the entire piece of pork belly. Wrap tightly in cheesecloth and seal in an zip-bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 3-5 days. Remove pork belly from bag and cheesecloth, rinse off spice mixture., and dry. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and brown the pork belly on all sides. Wrap the pork belly in aluminum foil and cure in oven set at 275 degrees for 2 1/2-3 hours. When ready to serve, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, brown on all sides, and make sure the fat is cooked through. Enjoy in small doses,as a snack or appetizer.


Beth Michelle said...

I have only had pork belly once and really loved it! I can only imagine what the chefs at Craftsteak cooked up, must have been heavenly!! Your rub sounds amazing and Im sure that the dish tasted perfect!

Jill Colonna said...

Absolutely love the title - it certainly does look so mouthwatering and tempting. Wonderful idea with the 5-spices and as small portions.

Jocie's Mom said...

If y'all like pork belly than y'all should really think about hitting the Caribbean. It's pretty much on every menu here and its delicious :) Awesome recipe!

Lomo said...

This looks so interesting. I have always wanted to try cooking pork belly but have never found a recipe to try. I will be bookmarking this one!

jck said...

One thing I know for sure: I couldn't live without pork...for reasons like this.