Last Fall I found myself completely won over by the succulent charms and satisfaction of home-braised pork belly. That was the season I worked on testing recipes for the chapter, Fresh Bacon: The Glories of Braised Pork Belly, in Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen. Yes – an entire chapter devoted solely to that cut so richly streaked both of silken-fat and lusciously savory meat – would you expect anything less from Cleveland’s King of Pork? The recipes using the belly are fantastic (hear this: fresh bacon with watermelon and haloumi makes a mind-blowing breakfast or brunch item), however, after braising, left over was some of the the richest, most flavorful broth I’ve ever tasted without designation in the book. Thinking, “Ramen – this broth would make the most exquisite base for a bowl of ramen”, one year later, in true Pavlovian form, I’ve returned to the Fall, the pork and its heavenly liquor – determined to create a bowl of noodles fit to please an Iron Chef.
With gorgeous local belly (thanks for the new source, Live to Cooks co-author and other Michael, Ruhlman), and Cleveland clambake season in mind, I went to work constructing my bowl using Symon’s technique for braising but altering the flavorings to give it a decidedly Asian bent. The components: Strained belly braising liquid, fresh noodles from the Asian market, pan-crisped and browned belly, some steamed-just-to-popping plump middleneck clams, half a 5 minute local egg, roasted both local corn and crisp dice of sweet potato to add an element of sweetness, and a pluck of flash-sauteed pea shoots (for me! for me! – must have green veggies!). Shaved scallion and cayenne chile wait ready at the sidelines to mix in to taste for piquancy and heat.
The below belly recipe is of my own seasonings; Symon’s version is in the book which will be released this November 3rd. The recipes from the book did totally rock my kitchen, and maybe even my world. Michael, I know how much you enjoy a big bowl of brothy Asian-style noodles, so this one’s for you:
Braised Pork Belly
Yields approximately 1 1/2 pounds belly and 1 quart braising liquid
2 lbs. fresh pork belly, skin removed, fat left in place
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons palm sugar
1 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Grated zest from 1 orange
2 large shallots, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
5 large coins of peeled ginger
4 whole garlic cloves
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup dry Chinese rice wine
1 quart homemade chicken stock
Rinse the pork belly and pat dry.
In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, coriander, five spice, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and orange zest. Coat the pork belly with the mixture and place in a large plastic bag or wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 275.
Remove the belly from the refrigerator, rinse off seasonings and pat dry.
In a large pot, combine the shallot, carrot, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, rice wine and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Put the belly in a Dutch oven and pour liquid over it. Place belly in oven and braise until very tender, 3-7 hours.
Remove from the oven and let cool 20 minutes. remove belly, wrap. Strain braising liquid into a container. Both belly and liquid may be kept refrigerated up to one week. To use belly, slice and pan-crisp andbrown as needed – I like to do it slowly in cast iron.