It seems that food eaten out of necessity during tough times continues on to steal the show during food renaissances later down the road. You know the items that I am thinking of like beef tongue that Americans are beginning to devour from taquerias like a pack full of wolves, pork belly that is leaping off menus at countless fine dining establishments in New York and L.A, and tripe at some of the more authentic Italian trattorias. It's no wonder we are devouring these cuts more and more these days other than the fact we find some kind of social link to our past in their consumption. Once you have taken the first bite you realize why you picked up that terrifying tongue that will match any beef roast and taco filling or pork belly that looks like a slab of meat reserved for the butchers wife from yesteryear. These are the items that fill your home with the smell of tradition and everything wholesome we associate with a meal around the table with family.
When you braise a pork belly in the fashion I did the results are truly mesmerizing. It punches our taste buds and mentality in the face like that perfect roast chicken demanding an answer to why we won't take a tiny bit of prep time to create these amazing centerpieces. Try serving one of your friends or family that chows down on a baby back ribs and pulled pork a slice of pork belly. Reserve the opportunity for someone who is too terrified to try something as "outlandish" as pork belly and let them try to deny they like it after you see them reaching for another bite. This dish in all its unctuous umami, sweet, and spicy glory will turn any cynic into a believer- except a full blown vegan (and for them you may have no hope). About the only thing better than this amazing food renaissance that has brought us back to the goodness of everything pork, and pork belly in this case, is the ease in which it is prepared.
Soy-Ginger Pork Belly
I cannot steal all the spotlight for this dish because I stole the idea from chef Daniel Boulud, that I respect very much, and altered it some to my tastes. His cookbook titled "Braise" is a masterpiece of inventive recipes from varying cultures that I highly recommend.
1- 3 pound boneless, skin-on pork belly
2 C beef broth
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C dark soy sauce (high quality soy sauce is important here as the cheap stuff can be cloyingly salty)
1/2 C peeled finely chopped ginger
2 bunches green onions, one diced and other for garnish
3 T brown sugar
3 T hoisin sauce
1 T olive oil
Score the pork belly on the skin side just deep enough to reach the meat in a diamond pattern. Place pork belly in a plastic bowl the night before cooking along with soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, hoisin, and one bunch diced green onions to marinate.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. When ready to cook, rake any onions and sauce from the belly and brown in a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven approximately 12 minutes. When thoroughly golden turn pork fat side up and add marinade back to cooking vessel, cover, and move to oven.
Cook about 4 hours or a little longer if not tender enough to your liking. Taste sauce to assure it is seasoned properly: it may need a touch more vinegar to cut the richness or saltiness. Cut in small diagonal chunks and sprinkle with garnish onions. Serve very warm with sauce poured over, a side of steamed snow peas, and steamed rice. Enjoy with a French Chardonnay.
The fat can be removed and cooked under the broiler to crisp and serve alongside the pork belly. I did this when I made the dish but forgot to photograph it.