On Saturday night we had “fake Valentine’s Day” here at our house. We had company last weekend and Robert and I spent a good part of the week bickering, so we designated Saturday for a nice dinner together. I decided to do my pork belly experiment because, hey, we love pig fat. It was a reasonably successful attempt, but not exactly right. I have to work on it a little more. Any dish that comes to me in a dream deserves a few attempts at perfection.
If you recall from my last post, I dreamed about pork belly that was braised in pear eau de vie. I did find the eau de vie, but wow, it was pricey. The one kind that was a true dry style was $43 a bottle. I just couldn’t do it. I ended up buying a bottle of sweet pear liqueur made in Portland. It was also expensive, but it came in smaller bottles and looked like something I would want to drink if nothing else. Braising in this costly liquid was out so I had to come up with another plan. I ended up browning the meat and some aromatic vegetables and then cooking it in a combination of chicken broth and white wine. I stuck the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees and cooked it for about 3 1/2 hours.
When it came out it was falling apart and had given up a lot of the fat. I removed the meat and strained the cooking juices into my gravy separator to get out most of the fat. I added some pear cider to the juices and then reduced them to a syrupy sauce. I cut the meat into four pieces and rolled them around in the sauce and put them back in the oven at 425 degrees to crisp up. I think that the meat would have benefited greatly from a 24 hour brining or a dry rub, something to cure it a little bit. I think some salt, sugar, cloves and black pepper would make a really good dry rub for this meat. But anyhow…
I decided to serve the pork with blue cheese polenta, kale with shallots and toasted hazelnuts, and roasted pears. The roasted pears were maybe the best part of the dinner and also the most dangerous. I cut them into quarters and brushed them with a healthy amount (I guess I should say a not-so-healthy amount) of melted butter. I stuck them in the oven at 425 with the pork to cook. They weren’t browning a much as I wanted, so when the pork was done I put them under the broiler. I also poured in some of my tasty pear liqueur. This is when things got exciting. I was busy, stirring polenta, checking the greens, just the general puttering that goes on just before you sit down to eat, when I heard a WHOOSH! in the oven and the door banged open and then shut again. I looked in and there were big blue flames. Lots of big blue flames. I hadn’t even thought that the alcohol in the liqueur could catch fire from the broiler, but it did. It was a lucky mistake though, the pears were divine and I didn’t even singe my eyebrows off. Here’s the final product:
All in all I give it a 7.8. I put too much blue cheese in the polenta, and I will try a few other things with the pork next time. But it’s worth trying again (and again). Pork belly is just uncured bacon after all.
Side note: Sunday night I made a tasty carbonara pasta with the leftover pork. Eggs, cheese, belly of pig, a few cherry tomatoes and some fresh basil. Easy and pretty darn good.