Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pork Belly -- Part One

I call this Part One because THERE WILL BE A RE-MATCH!!

I brought over a pork belly to be smoked at my friends' J & K's place. K's younger brother has been storing a smoker there for the past few weeks. He showed up in SF on the way home from Mexico, and was happy to help us smoke a big ass hunk of meat.

Below is the smoker and a big hunk of hickory that he used as fuel for the smoker.

The flying embers are kind of cool.


Back to the meat.

I marinated the pork loin in a marinade of garlic, Jack Daniels, chilly peppers, olive oil. No salt though. Recipe was courtesy of Food Network Canada's website.

We put the meat onto the smoker for about 3 hours, temperature hovering between 250 to 300 degrees. We also, diverging from the original recipe, used a spray bottle instead of a drip pan to keep it moist. The spray bottle was a combo of salt, water, and Wild Turkey.

It came out mighty pretty.

The catch. That damn skin!

Yes, that drop dead gorgeous brown skin you see in the photos. It was still too tough. While the meat came out good and tasty the skin could not be cut with our table knives. I could eat the skin -- but everyone else couldn't. Can't blame them -- it did seem a little like shoe leather.

Possibilities that arise;

-- I didn't smoke it long enough to break down the skin, and did it at too higher a temperature.
-- Smoking just isn't a good way to handle the thick skin of pork belly.
-- Both.

The last time I cooked this -- also a disappointment -- the skin came out super crispy. The pork loin that the pork belly was wrapped around came out dry though.

The one option not explored yet -- braising/slow cooking the sucker. I have plenty of Asian recipes along the lines of this. Chinese ones involving dark soy sauce & star anise, Japanese ones using daikon. They are all delicious. I've had them, and they've shown me the potential of pork belly.

But I want to do it the Western way. The Chinese & Japanese approaches, frankly, are too easy. Slow cooking with a soy sauce base, that's something that comes easily to both me and my wife.

A Western approach -- that's a harder nut to crack. I also want to try and serve it with something other than a bowl of rice. A soy sauce based recipe restricts you to that.

My next attempt -- slow cooking with onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bouquet garni, and a PINT OF GUINNESS. Three hours of that -- the skin, fat, and meat should all be tenderized.

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