Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roast Pork Belly: Burp! Gives Thanks

Yeah, we had pork for Thanksgiving.  But, before you start throwing your turkey carcasses at us, let me explain...

On November 27, 1998, Peef and Lo became one. That is to say, Peef and Lo got married. And if you look back, you will see that November 27, 1998 was a Friday. A Black Friday, in fact.

That's right, we got hitched the day after Thanksgiving.
So, suffice it to say, Thanksgiving has never really been an ordinary holiday for us.

In addition, you might have noticed that we have this little habit of cooking together, and we couldn't imagine any other way to celebrate our marriage than side by side in the kitchen. This results in rather non-traditional Thanksgiving feasts, and this year was by far one of the most inventive.

But more on that in a little bit...

A few months back, we were fortunate to benefit from an otherwise unfortunate event.
Our friend Scott from Bolzano Artisan Meats experienced the pangs of a busted appendix right after he'd received a hog fresh from the farm. During his recovery, he was unable to perform the work needed to transform a fresh pig into cured artisan charcuterie.  So, instead, he offered up a variety of freshly butchered pork cuts for sale to the general public.

When we got the email announcing the sale, I read through the list of available cuts. Pork belly... Picnic roast... Boston Butt...   Heh. I didn't even finish reading. The fact is, he had me at Pork Belly. Lo was excited about getting a picnic roast...but I was stuck on the Pork Belly.

"I needs one," I said to Lo (in a very whiny voice).

Fortunately, Lo loves me, and she agreed that a couple of picnic roasts and a Pork Belly would be a welcome addition to our freezer for future feasts.

One such future feast, as it happens, was Thanksgiving.

Our pork belly turned out to be a thing of beauty. Deliciously pink & beskinned, the belly had a delightful balance between fabulous meat and layers of beautiful white pork fat.  Although Lo decided it smelled a little bit like wet dog, I thought it looked pretty fabulous.

We'd chosen an Asian application from one of the latest issues of Saveur magazine -- mainly because it included step-by-step instructions for achieving a gloriously puffed and crispy layer of cracklin' pork skin -- a delicacy I've been waiting to experience for most of my adult life. 

Interestingly enough, we had most of the ingredients for the pork's marinade right in our cupboard.  All except the preserved red bean curd, which I easily procured from the Asian grocer down the street.

And then the fun began.

We poked the pork skin all over with a sharp knife (and yes, I am now coveting one of those official pork poking tools).  We scalded it with a baking soda and water mixture.  We mixed together the marinade (pausing a bit when we smelled the slighly funky odor of the red bean curd, but persisting nonetheless), and we let everything cure overnight.

On Thanksgiving afternoon, we removed our slightly funky-smelling pork belly from the fridge, placed it on a roasting rack, and set it in the oven.  About an hour later, we opened the oven door and were greeted by a sight for sore eyes.
That pork belly... well, it was positively stellar.

We broke off hunks of the crackled skin and nibbled like greedy little... pigs?   The puffed bits crackled and crunched and filled our mouths with enticingly porky flavor, while the deliciously tender meat, pleasantly caramelized and perfumed with the scent of five spice powder, melted in our mouths.

It was (dare I say it) quite nearly better than bacon.  And it was even better when paired with another of our holiday cooking projects...

...which we'll reveal to you on Friday.
Trust me when I say it's worth the wait. 

In the meantime, feel free to check out the recipe:  Crispy Pork Siew Yoke - Saveur Magazine

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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.


  1. Congratulations are in order, for both the anniversary and the succulent pork belly!

  2. ah yes!! so lovely. Crispy pork belly is an amazing thing to consume. So good held between chopsticks, so good spooned up with white rice, so good the day after!

    perfect way to celebrate your anniversary!

  3. I like that you did something unique for Thanksgiving! Happy anniversary! :)

  4. The more I see non-traditional Thanksgivings, the more I love the idea of them! I'm not really a big turkey eater anyway. It's kind of. Um. Boring. This though? Gorgeous!

  5. what a great story! I like that you go with your (or the pig's) gut!

  6. Happy belated anniversary!!!! Congrats on many years in the kitchen together and I hope you have many more.

    YOu and your wedding guests (if you had a wedding and did the smart thing and eloped - something SPP and I were too dumb to do) must have had some fortitude to handle Thanksgiving dinner one day and a big wedding dinner the next. :-D

    I would have LOVED this pork belly Thanksgiving. That pork skin looks to die for. I could use some chiccharones right now. Don't worry about not having turkey. I didn't have turkey either. I went out to eat and found that I just couldn't eat a turkey dinner that wasn't home-cooked, so I had lamb chops instead.

  7. This looks delicious! I'm all about steering away from the traditional on Thanksgiving. Happy Anniversary, by the way! My husband and I love to cook together so we always like to celebrate special days with a home-cooked meal. Thank you for sharing. Happy Hump Day!

  8. i'm jealous, that looks brilliant! pork is way better than turkey anyhow. happy anniversary!

  9. Ok, I could not be more jealous of that pork belly!

  10. Wow! The skin looks really crispy!I'd love to try this. I came across your site from the foodieblogroll and I'd love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this pork belly widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about pork belly recipes,Thanks!

  11. Absolutely sensational, mouth-watering pork belly recipe. What a fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving and your anniversary. Congrats. Maybe next time you'd like to try another variation of roast pork belly with this recipe from top Mendoza chef Matías Podestá. It's classic Argentine food with a modern twist: http://www.therealargentina.com/argentinian-wine-blog/the-real-argentina-food-roast-pork-belly-recipe/

  12. What a mouth watering dish. Just looking at it makes me want to bite the screen.


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