Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day = Day to make braised pork belly

When I was younger, I didn't really like pork all that much. Or at least I thought so. The reason is because American pork is all over-salted or tasteless - bacon, ham, chops. Even SPAM - probably the best American pork is almost like not really pork. And I never made the connection between the Chinese pig meat I loved - char siu, feet, shoulder, and especially double-layered fat belly - and "pork." As I got older, I made the connection that these were in fact all different parts of the same animal. I mean...I knew that, but I didn't KNOW it. (Until this day I have a similar confusion over the difference between sheep, goat, and ram because they all have the same word in Chinese. It's not even like I'm fluent in Chinese, I'm just very easily confused.)

But it gets me upset when I think about the way we in America disrespect the meat we eat. People don't want to eat pig feet or ears or chitterlings or anything that is easily identifiable as part of an animal. We don't even call it pig, but pork. We don't want to eat cow, but want to eat beef and steak and burgers and Rocky Mountain oysters. And of course it's veal instead of calf, or more accurately - infant cow.

In my mind, when it comes to eating meat: stakes is high.

I can stand eating vegetables that aren't cooked that great because they are vegetables. But human beings do not need to eat meat in order to survive or even to thrive - so there is no reason we should ever eat meat that is not cooked to perfection. When we eat meat, we should make it worth it. You know what I'm saying?

Pork is - to me - the perfect meat. I could live without beef or chicken or even fish - but I don't think I'd ever stop eating expertly-prepared pork. So that having been said I used the snow day from work as an excuse to make some braised pork belly with ALL the fat still attached. Mmm. (Read this Slate.com article about why eating lard is not as bad as you thought it was.)

Step by step. (Oooh baby.)

This is some pork belly cut up into pieces maybe an inch (?) thick. Marinate it in dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and a little sugar plus a minced bulb of garlic. The dark soy is the key. We also ended up throwing some pig ears in there too.

 
S has this really clever technique when braising meats - that's to put sugar on the bottom of the pot and burn it until it's a deep brown color - that gives the deep rich color to the final product and probably lends a little bit of smoke to the taste. Unfortunately, i did it wrong and the sugar liquefied instead of burned - I guess I should have used a different pot - regardless, after it became syrup, it browned a little so I just kept going.

After that, you throw your pork and marinade into the pot and saute a little. No need for oil because of the thick layers of lard. Mmmm. After it's cooked a short while, dump in some water. S's style would be to fill it halfway and continue to refill as necessary. I am lazy so I just basically filled the pot. But my mom always braised stuff starting with a full pot so I wasn't concerned; although she would do it starting in the morning - not in an hour.

After the water has basically boiled down all the way, it will look like this. Notice we threw some hard boiled eggs (shells removed) in earlier, and see the whole pig ears on the bottom of the photo. At this point, you might as well taste the liquid in the pot and see if the flavor feels right or not. If it's too strong, then add some more water and cook it down a little more; if it's too weak, you'll need to add flavoring.

As I sliced up the ear, I listened to "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Steeler's Wheel.

 
This is screaming to be eaten with white rice. But given that it's basically eating straight lard, I opted for the slightly healthier brown rice.

9 comments:

pheak-pheak said...

good job G!! I'm proud that you cooked this to perfection and it was your first time too!! What an awesome snow day!

Tanya said...

Great job, Jillez!! I'm so with you on pork. I was not into pork at all growing up...with the exception of bacon and pork belly cooked with salted fish. I just made the latter this past weekend but in that dish, the key to heaven is choosing really fatty pork belly. It grosses Sean out to no end that I'm eating straight fat. Even the kids were a tad grossed out since Mommy taught them that fat is bad. Hahahahahaha...again, with the exception of bacon, fried chicken skin, and pork belly fat cooked with salted fish....mmmmmm.

Keeps those babies in the uterus until it's safe to go out, Sopheak!!!!!

Love & hugs to the both of you!

mherzog said...

Here's a good video on the subject: http://meat.org

Kalliannedewie said...

goodness! my mouth is dripping with saliva! giles just made one of my fave things. caramelized pork stew, but w.o the star anise or bamboo shoots. i love the smell and taste of the caramelized sugar on the pork. it definitely lends it a nice smoky flavor. love reading about the projects you both do together. so cute.

pheak-pheak said...

Tanya..you have to show us your pork belly and salted fish dish!! That sounds delish!! Kalianne, yeah I like bamboo in pork stew too. After delivery I will enjoy my mom's pork stew with heavy Black Pepper and ginger...i guess its a khmer remedy for new moms which happens to be very yummy.

Tsukemonoki said...

Tried your recipe. It's pretty good, but I think I added too much water, so the fat didn't burn off. I have some more in the freezer, so I'll play with the recipe some more.

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Tyler Bailey said...

Goodness! my mouth is dripping with saliva! giles just made one of my fave things. caramelized pork stew, but w.o the star anise or bamboo shoots. i love the smell and taste of the caramelized sugar on the pork. it definitely lends it a nice smoky flavor. love reading about the projects you both do together.