Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Pork Belly Saga: Or, What Went Wrong

This is a story about a pork belly. Or really, about what the pork belly became and why. Well, we really don't know why, but maybe you can help us out. Here's the story: I was craving something braisy and in lieu of beef short ribs, thought I'd try pork belly. Pork belly purchased, I happily brined it, and prepared to roast it. Now, what most recipes call roasting when it comes to pork belly, is still really like a braise -- lots of liquid involved. So, after adding the onions, carrots, and celery along with herbs, red wine, and veal demi-glace, my happy little pork bellys were cooking away -- low and slow. (I'd also thrown some rabbit in there that had been in my freezer.) After about 4 hours, just as the recipe said, they were clearly done.

Now, here's where I went off the reservation. Of course, the roasting recipe suggested pulling the cooked meat out of the liquid at this point, straining out the vegetables, then reducing the liquid for a nice sauce. But in my world of "if 4 hours is good, 6 should be better!", I continued to cook the meat until it a) disintegrated, and b) the sauce was absorbed or evaporated. Ironcially, it looked just like beef shortribs. The dish was rich. I mean like so rich you'll be sick for a couple of days rich. And it was salty. Way salty. In fact, too salty to eat the leftovers salty.

So, what went wrong? Too much protein? Did the fat from the pork disintegrate causing the whole dish to somehow backfire? Did it have to do with the brining? Next time, I'll just follow the recipe, that is -- I'll pull out the meat when it's cooked correctly and reduce the sauce properly. But still, wondering what went wrong. (Everyone at dinner was very polite and said it was good, but I wasn't happy with it.)
Everything else was delicious -- roasted potatoes finished in the oven until crispy with olive oil and fresh rosemary, light parpadelle with an ultra-fresh pasta sauce, beets with goat cheese, and lemon pound cake and cheese for dessert. (All with a special treat of older German wines.)

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