Slow Food

I placed an order for a pork belly (half, really) and it weighed in at 11 pounds. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but it’s at least two inches thick- more in places. I cut it into two large pieces that would just fit in the two biggest vessels I could stack in the fridge, and rubbed it well with miso, ume paste, maple syrup, and a bunch of spices. There it sits, slowly absorbing umamitude and gorgeousness. I’ll smoke it this weekend, then bag and freeze it in roughly one-pound hunks. It will nurture and protect us all winter.

The was one little piece- maybe 2/3 lb.- from the end that wouldn’t fit, so I packed it in salt, sugar, curry and spice powders, and toasted seeds (fennel, coriander, pepper, mustard, fenugreek) and it sat for about 4 days. This morning I rinsed it off and put it in a pot, covering it with a quart of turkey phở left from the Thanksgiving shoot (there are three more quarts in the freezer) and some apple cider. I also threw in a thumb of ginger, smashed garlic, cardamom, raisins, and a kaffir lime leaf. I brought it up to a bare simmer, then put it into an 180˚ F oven for six hours.

Towards the end of that time, I made dal with red lentils, onion, spices, and water. I chopped a nice head of pak choi and gave it a two-part braise with garlic and lemon juice: the white stalks cooked for about 20 minutes until they were nice and soft, and the greens went in just before the end so they’d stay bright. I pulled the meat out and strained the liquid into another pot. I cut the belly into hunks, and seared around the sides of the pieces in a little bit of duck fat until they were brown and crisp. A ladle of lentils, a spoon of broth, a nestled belly cube, and a few raisins. Cilantro for color and treble.

Woah. The similar spices in all the components got all kinds of busy in this bowl. Just the liquid- leaving aside the heavenly fat belly- was amazing. The multiple layers of flavor in there were pretty sublime, and combined with the earthy lentils and (here’s a word I hate, but it fits) succulent meat it was ridiculous. Versions of this will henceforth be a standard until spring summer forever. A bottle of good Spätlese Riesling would have really gone beautifully with this, but we didn’t have any.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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