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No Fear: Pork Belly; It’s What’s For Dinner

Before I place a montage, there’s inspiration. Back ’round the 4th of July weekend, we happened to have missed being with friends who happened to be with mutual friends. Make sense? OK, they ended up going to Gordon Ramsay’s LA restaurant and posted more than a dozen pics of what they ate. This was one.

Pork Belly at Gordon Ramsay LA
Pork Belly at Gordon Ramsay, LA

The caption read: "Slow braised pork belly, crispy pig’s head, pickled red onions and pea purée." Count me in.

But this is merely the beginning; the inspiration.

My friend Robert features prominently on this blog, as does his wife, Julie. They both do. While not usually mentioned, much, most of the cooking for friends I do is for them, and they do equally for us. And we play cards — advanced Spades, if you must know.

But sometimes the girls and their friends get tired of Robert & I winning all the time, so they have their once-monthly girl’s-night-out get-together, and, you get it: Robert & I were on our own last night.

And we decided to push boundaries.

…Well, actually, he did. My original idea was grilled burgers.

He wasn’t moved. I knew this when I called him yesterday afternoon about various arrangements and found him at the meat counter acquiring the pork belly I’m about to feature. We decided at that point to go outside boundaries. He decided to do pork belly, and I, Belgian endive. …I began, not liking it much when first encountered in France — always sauteed — it seemed to have a bitter taste. But I got to like it, but always wondered if I could do better. I believe I did.

Pork Belly Co
Pork Belly & Co

This was a lot of fun. The pork belly is simply seasoned with a little (a little) coriander, cumin, salt & pepper. It’s then roasted at 450 for 15, then down to 350 for two hours. At the end, baste it with its juices a couple of times and fire it under the broiler.

I decided on Belgian endive, sauteed, then braised for 15 minutes covered, in 350 (lower rack in the same oven). Right before it went into the oven.

Belgian Endive
Belgian Endive

I used no spices or herbs. Endive. Two slices of bacon. Onion. Pecans. I sauteed in the drippings from very lightly cooking the two strips of bacon, leaf lard & butter. Once soft, into the oven.

The other notable thing is that Robert made a roux with the pork fat drippings out of the oven. He sprinkled in a bit of dried basil, then it was 1 1/2 tbsp potato flour and about one cup heavy cream. Even more to be fearless about…

Dinner Service
Dinner Service
Plate Nuber One
Plate Number One
Plate Number Two
Plate Number Two

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

8 Comments

  1. robertchon on September 24, 2009 at 23:36

    Richard,

    Dinner was an immense pleasure. Some might label us as “foodies” but I think of people like ourselves as “Paleo Foodies” because that speaks to the motivations for our cooking and the food we try to create.

    I'm not a real foodie so I don't know if or to what degree pork bellies are currently vogue. I know when a group of us tasted them in July that they were delicious, more succulent and flavorful than any other cut of pork. Way beyond loin, tenderloin or center cut rib.

    For your readers (many I'm sure who are better cooks than me), pork belly (unlike pork butt) is exactly what is says it is, the belly of a pig. It's also the cut commonly used for bacon. But unlike bacon it's not brined and smoked so you get to enjoy the meat without the smoky camouflage. As with bacon, the belly is highly fatty, almost like prime rib of beef and like prime rib, bastes itself in its own juices. Much of the fat disappears during cooking leaving immensely flavored, fork-tender meat. In addition, pork belly comes with a fat rind which if prepared with the purpose, becomes a deliciously crispy shell. This rind is the same as what many call pork cracklings or chicharrón. The belly was about $15 for three pounds and would easily have fed a party of four (if the girls hadn't abandoned us). It was fun cooking this for the first time. Because of these meals, I now think of pork belly as a delicious cut of meat and not some half-joking, nearly hypothetical commodity. Everyone should try it. Great times Richard. Thanks for everything.

  2. marcfeelgoodeating on September 25, 2009 at 08:58

    Now that looks fantastic! I'm going to try it. Will post pics when I do.

    Endive; growing up in europe, I ate a lot of it. I like it as a “delivery mechanism”. Great to fill with guacamole, salmon salad, smoked salmon spread, tuna tartare etc etc.
    Thanks for sharing Richard, have a great weekend.

    Marc

  3. Reamz on September 25, 2009 at 13:27

    awesome -that looks like a proper restaurant dish! I'm sure I'd rather have that than what Gordon Ramsay came up with

  4. yummyg on September 25, 2009 at 14:22

    Whoa. That looks incredible!

  5. StephenB on September 25, 2009 at 15:01

    Looks great. Being from Louisiana, I can appreciate the roux. The only thing is that I have mostly eliminated wheat from my diet. Anyone find anything else to make a roux with?

  6. Rachelmatesz on September 26, 2009 at 10:48

    That looks so delish! Yes, Richard, pork belly is in vogue! Last spring I attended the annual West of Western Culianary Festival in Phoenix, AZ, with chefs from around the valley serving up samples of some of their best dishes. There were so many tables of yummy food. I was so satiated by the time I got to the table with pork belly that I passed it up (darn!). I did have an amazing “new fashioned flat” consisting of Foie Gras Ice Cream in Sonoran Root Beer with Arizona Candied Pecans that was “to live for!” Of two though, I think I'll be making the pork belly soon. I'm on the tail end of a bbq rib phase and ready for something new.

    I love your enthusiasm for food, especially meat and fat!

    Keep on cooking,

    Rachel

  7. dladow on September 26, 2009 at 13:36

    Pork belly is great, but the jowl is even better. Cook it the same way as belly. I like to braise them slowly (3-5 hrs) in stock or beer with aromatic vegetables, allow to cool, then warm up slices by browning in a skillet. That gives you a crusty outside with a beautiful silky melt in your mouth inside and makes a fabulous appetizer. Chinese cuisine also has great ways to cook belly. For the best fat ever, check out woolypigs.com. These are Mangalitsa pigs originally from eastern Europe, raised for their amazing lard. For those in the Seattle area, he is at the U-District farmers market Saturdays.
    Dave

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