Zero Nostalgia

Besides bacon, I do enjoy pork belly in other forms. Now I know it’s right up there with Jay Mohr doing an impression of Christopher Walken dressed as Fonzie jumping over Damien Hirst’s pickled shark on a Segway in terms of its of-the-momentness, but leaving aside the moronic frivolity of Food Trends™ for a second, it’s a cut of meat with a very particular character and a sterling pedigree in a whole bunch of culinary traditions– some of which date back well into the twentieth century!

Imagine that.

In China, it’s sometimes referred to as the “five layers of heaven” for its alternating striations of muscle and fat. And then skin. I made a pretty badass dinner with a hunk a while back– a hunk I cured as if for bacon (but with all sorts of Indian inflection) and then braised for six hours in the oven with stock and such, and it was ridonkulosity incarnate on a bed of dal with some of the braising liquid.

This time aound, I didn’t have any cured, but I did have a particularly meaty hunk of Berkshire belly in the freezer. So I thawed it in chicken stock with a pile of aromatics and set it in a 190˚ oven for about 6 hours. Meanwhile, I pressure-cooked navy beans with parsnips, leeks, minced duck prosciutto, and herbs, and caramelized brussels sprouts with lardons of our bacon and then steamed with a bit more of the chicken stock. And whisked up some polenta. Once out of the oven, I strained the braising liquid and reduced it a tetch while I put a righteous sear on the skin of the belly and then cut it into portions.

It probably would have tasted better if I had been wearing a too-small Thom Browne suit and listening to Arctic Monkeys on a Zune while I ate it, but as it was it did just fine for, you know, people eating dinner.

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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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