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It’s Just Bacon… Right?

April 10, 2010

 Braised Pork Belly with Asian Pears
Dining out lately you may notice some kind of preparation of pork belly offered on the menu of your favorite restaurant.   More and more chefs are offering this item.  It is a rather inexpensive cut of meat and when cooked properly, can take on some great flavors.  It is a perfect mix of lean and succulent fat.    Matt Carter offers a Pork Belly Pibil style appetizer at The Mission.  Pork belly is always showing up on the menu at Cowboy Ciao where presently they are offering a grilled Pork Belly with Thai chili cucumber salad and sweet soy.  Chef Cullen Campbell briefly offered a tasty seared version at his newly opened Crudo.   I think even that Sam Fox guy is offering a pork belly dish to the masses on some of his chain restaurant menus.

Recently we were having about 6 guests come over for drinks and something to munch on before heading out to eat.  I firmly stated to myself that I was going to prepare some pork belly.  What I did not realize at the time what a treasure hunt it would become to find some uncured pork belly in this G. D. town.

I figured this stuff would be easy to come by.  I mean the fad that has become kobe beef has lead all of our local grocers to now offer these overpriced cuts of meat in the butcher case – why haven’t they caught on to pork belly?  Everywhere I went: “You mean bacon right?”.    “Well you can special order it”.  Special order it?  Come on we are talking about pig here – not sea urchins.  A.J.’s Fine Foods – nope.  Whole Foods – negative ghost rider.  Drats, it is Friday, the day before everyone shows up, and I am running low on faith.  I try the Oakville Grocery Co. in the new swanky Scottsdale Quarter near Kierland.  Oakville Grocery Co. started up in Napa Valley surly they can help?  The woman at the deli counter looked like she knew her stuff.  She was training some younger slicers, and meat grinders.  I was informed they didn’t stock pork belly either but I got a hot lead: Schreiner’s Fine Sausage on 7th Street.   How on earth did I not think of Shreiner’s?  They wholesale to every restaurant in Phoenix.  I drove by their tiny, family run facility, everyday on the way to work for 4 years.  Amazingly my quest did not end at the family run pork processing and smokehouse.  The nice lady at the counter directed me to Hobe Meats.  Eureaka!

Hard to imagine it took 5 years of living in Phoenix to discover Hobe Meats.  Located near the northwest corner of Bethany Home Rd and 16th St, opened back in 1962, this old school butcher shop should be in any carnivore’s address book.  Ownership changed hands around 2009 when, current owner, Bret Pont purchased the shop.  Pont has done a terrific job carrying on the Hobe tradition of offering the highest quality cuts of steak, as well as a great variety of hard to find products.  Frog Legs: check.  Elk and venison: check.  Pork and beef Shanks: check.  Most importantly – he stocks pork belly!  Every Saturday at lunch Hobe Meats has a $5.00 cookout – offering a selection of tasty burgers, tri-tip, smoked turkey legs, hot dogs, and ribs.     

I have had pork belly quite a few different ways, this is by far my favorite:

Pork Belly Braised in Honey, Citrus and Soy

This dish will serve about 6 appetizer sized servings

  • 1 lb pork belly (don’t forget to trim off skin, leaving fat on)
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger (fine grated)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of soy sauce
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of good honey
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 scallions (sliced diagonally – for garnish)
  • 6 mint leaves (for garnish)
  • 1 Asian or Bosc pear (sliced into match size sticks)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Find the smallest sized stainless steel sauce pan you have that will fit the pork belly in it flat – without mushing the pieces together.  Place the pan over medium high heat.  Take your pork belly and cut it into 4 equal sized rectangular pieces.  Pepper both sides of the pork to your liking.  Place the belly pieces, fat side down, on the now hot sauce pan and let the fat render a bit.  About 5 minutes.  Some nice caramel color should show on the fat side.  Now spend a quick amount of time simply searing the other 5 sides of the pork.  Remove pork from the pan and set aside. 

Now add your mint leaves to the hot rendered pork fat in the sauce pan.  Make certain to not overcrowd them.  It will only take about 8 to 10 seconds to fry up the mint leaves.  Remove them to a paper towel.  Next add your grated ginger and garlic to the sauce pan and cook in the pork fat for about 3 minutes.  Next spoon in your honey, soy and orange juice.  Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil. 

As soon as the sauce begins to boil turn the heat off and add your pork belly pieces back to the pan – fat side up.  Now place the sauce pan in the oven for about 2 and 1/2 hours.  Check occasionally to make certain the sauce is not boiling (as everyone’s oven is different) – reduce heat if necessary.  While checking in on the sauce flip your belly pieces over as well. 

When finished cooking remove to a cutting board.  Place the pan with sauce on the range and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about a third.  Turn off the heat and stir your butter.  Serve the pork belly by slicing about three 1/4 inch slice per plate, stand them fat side up, stack your asian pear sticks to the side, spoon over a bit of the reduced soy honey glaze, garnish with the scallion and mint.
Pork Belly Spread

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mom2 permalink
    April 10, 2010 10:55 am

    I never thought I would try pork belly but being with you doesn’t give one much choice…and by george, that which was served at The Mission was very nice. And this from a chicken and fish gal….

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