This is the second pork dish in a row that Bev and I are posting on our blog. We can't help it. The quality of pork in this country is nothing short of fantastic, and so we are blessed. I'd expect that in a few days time you'd see yet another pork dish featured here in our blog: pork trotters braised in milk and sage, pulled apart and tossed through some fresh egg pasta. But let's leave that till then. For today's dinner, we cooked up a roasted pork dish using a slab of pork belly purchased from Burlington Butcher in Chinatown Mall, Fortitude Valley.
Pork belly is one of the cheaper cuts of meat that you can purchase. We got ours at around $9 a kilo, and a kilo of that makes up a pretty big slab! Because it has quite a fair amount of intra-muscular connective tissue, pork belly needs to be cooked gently and slowly to make it tender and delectable. Braising, slow roasting and simmering all work wonders for this cut of meat.
Below is the recipe for the roast pork dish that we made tonight. You may think that pork and anchovies are an odd match, but allow me to assure you that it's not quite as horrible it may sound to some! In fact, the saltiness of the anchovies and the acidity of the lemon in the sauce work well to offset the greasiness and meatiness of the pork belly, rounding out the overall dish quite nicely.
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
1 kg slab of pork belly, from your local butcher
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
Score the skin of the pork belly at close, regular intervals. Make sure that the incisions run deep enough to cut through the first layer of fat. This helps the fat to render out during the cooking process, and makes the skin crispen up nicely. Mix the salt with the rosemary and fennel seeds. Rub this dry mixure into the skin and grooves of the pork. Roast in a 250 degree celcius oven for 15 minutes till skin begins to dry slightly.
Turn down the temperature of the oven to 150 degrees celcius, a temperature great for slow roasting, and roast for another 3.5 hours. Place a tray of water underneath the pork to keep the oven humid all the time. As the water evaporates, keep topping it up. This helps to prevent the meat surface from drying out too much.
After 3.5 hours, take the meat out of the oven to rest. Depending on your oven, the crackling of the pork may or may not be puffed and crispy at this point. If yours, like mine tonight, is not crispy and puffed yet, transfer it to a higher shelf in your oven and cook it at 220 degrees celcius for a further 5-10 minutes till the skin puffs up. This step is crucial in ensuring that you have a crackling that is crispy rather than 'gummy'.
Rest for 15 minutes under a loose covering of aluminium foil. Carve and serve with anchovy sauce and salad leaves. I used cos lettuce hearts, which are essentially the inner most leaves of the cos (a.k.a. romaine) lettuce. These inner leaves are more crunchy and sweet than the outer ones.
5 anchovy fillets from a can/jar
1 tsp chopped herb (basil/rosemary/thyme/chive)
1/4 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Come to think of it, this is technically more a vinaigrette than a sauce. Either way, bash the anchovy fillets, herbs and garlic in a mortar and pestle till a rough paste is acheived. Alternatively, chop them very finely with a knife. Add them to a bowl and mix in the lemon juice. Incorporate the oil in a steady stream with a fork or a small whisk. Season plainly with pepper. Anchovies are pretty salty as is, so you may not need any extra salt for this sauce/vinaigrette. It goes great with fish, white meats and obviously, salad leaves.
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