WINTER’S END: PORK BELLY CONFIT
Food is so much more than just nourishment. Food is life. Not only does food sustain us, it can bring us comfort, joy and even, when necessary, closure. It’s only fitting that we look at how food, cooking techniques and life all converge at the changing of a season. For some of us, warm weather is a continuous fact of life. But for most of us, spring is just now arriving, signaling the end of a long and significant winter.
The winter of 2016 was one of defied expectations. From weather patterns to presidential elections, the ebb and flow of events left many of us feeling breathless. At the close of this winter season, the burgeoning optimism of spring feels extremely necessary. The arrival of warm weather and the renewal that comes with it has us finding our footing in new circumstances, but before we can fully embrace the direction of the new season, we must first say goodbye to the old. And what better way to send off the outgoing season than with one last amazing meal?
Every season has its comfort food, complete with a selection of preferred techniques for preparation. The warmer months are about light, fresh, easy to prepare meals that are quick to get you back out into the sun. But when it comes to winter, low and slow is the name of the game. The heart of winter cooking comes in the joy of spending time with family. Joy, love and hope are often paired at winter tables with dishes such as pork because it is inexpensive yet filling and bountiful.
So as we say goodbye to winter and embrace spring’s restorative challenge for the whole world to basically, do better, we offer winter a last meal of Pork Belly Confit with Whipped Roasted Yam, Sauteed Garden Greens, Bacon Jam and Pickled Turnip. Pork Belly is essentially unsmoked bacon. Confit, which is a very old-school preservation technique, is when you slow cook something in its own fat and juices. Paired with harvest vegetables like yams and greens, and accented with something even more savory – in this case, an amazing bacon jam – this dish is the perfect comfort meal to help us turn the page on winter.
Pork Belly Confit with Whipped Roasted Yam, Sauteed Garden Greens, Bacon Jam and Pickled Turnip – Serves 8
1 bunch of radishes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
PORK BELLY CONFIT:
3 lbs pork belly, skin on, unscored
6 cups canola oil
2 cups olive oil
Confit Dry Brine:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6 dried bay leaves, crushed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
Bacon jam can be found at PULLEDTOGETHER.
WHIPPED ROASTED YAM:
4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 7 medium)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp all-spice
Sea Salt and ground pepper
SAUTEED GARDEN GREENS:
2 tbsp of olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp of fresh ginger minced
1 large shallot thinly sliced
¼ tsp of crushed red pepper
½ cup of pork stock
1 lb of collards, rolled up, stems removed and cut into slightly thin ribbons
½ pound of okra thinly sliced into coins
Salt/Pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar, and 2 teaspoons coarse salt. Add radishes, and stir to combine. Let stand 30 minutes before serving. Pickled radishes are best used within a few hours but can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 day.
Pork Belly Confit:
Start by curing the the pork belly by making your dry brine. Combine the garlic, herbs, salt and spices. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons in a shallow baking dish or pan large enough to hold the pork. Next, add the pork, skin-side up. And rub with the remaining confit salt. Cover and place in the fridge for 24 hours to cure.
Pre-heat your oven to 230 degrees fahrenheit. Remove the salt brine mixture from the pork by rinsing it with cold water then overly pat dry using paper towel. Wrap pork belly skin side up so that it self-bastes in parchment paper and then in aluminum foil. Bake for 6 hours or until very tender. Remove from the oven, still wrapped, and let cool for 1 hour. Place pork, rind-side down, on a lined tray. Top with paper, another tray and 2-3 cans to compress. Chill overnight. By doing this, you compress the pork into an evenly shaped and flat surface for a better sear during the last step.
When ready to serve, remove pork from the fridge and slice pork into rectangular 1 inch long and ½ inch wide pieces. In a diamond-shaped pattern score each piece of pork on it’s skin side. Season with a salt and finish in a super hot skillet with 2 tbsp of olive oil until skin side is crispy and pork is heated through.
Whipped Roasted Yam:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until very tender when pierced with a knife, 1 hour. Cool enough to handle, halve sweet potatoes. With a spoon, scoop out flesh (discard skins); transfer to a food processor. Add butter and syrup; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Sauteed Garden Greens:
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook garlic, ginger, shallots, stirring often, until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in red-pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in collard greens and salt/pepper. Toss with fragrant oil until coated evenly.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add stock, and steam, covered, until greens are just tender and water evaporates, about 10 minutes. If greens are ready but there is still water in the pan, raise heat to medium-high, and cook, uncovered, until completely evaporated.
BUILD THE DISH:
Using a medium size spoon, place a dollop of the roasted yam on the center of the plate. Slightly smooth it towards you. Add your pork belly in the center and then top on the side next to the pork your collards. Next, add your chunks of bacon jam, then using the remaining jam syrup to create a circular stream around the outside of the roasted yam area. Finish with adding 3 to 5 slices of pickled radish randomly placed in and around the dish. Finish with a pinch of maldon sea salt flakes.
- Rashad Frazier