On our way to breakfast yesterday morning my husband said, "I've got a lot of football watching to do today". Yesterday was the NFC and the AFC playoff games to determine who will go to the Superbowl, and, although my husband isn't THE biggest football fan in the world he does like him some pigskin. He also explains his desire to watch the game by saying, "I'll take advantage of any excuse to sit on the couch and stuff my face all afternoon". I think that more women would like the game if they adopted that outlook.
After breakfast we headed to the market in search of some good-game-watchin'-grub. I suggested the usual suspects...chicken wings (homemade of course), nachos (basically I would have made a spicy fondue and let him dip away, and perhaps even some potato skins (although he never seems to be in the mood for them). Instead he said, "How about some braised pork belly". I should have guessed. The hubby loves him some braised pork belly. I suppose it's because it mixes his two favorite things together...pork fat and pork meat. If a restaurant has braised pork belly on the menu, he's ordering it. If a bbq place offers a pulled pork platter, he's all over it. In fact, when we got married we cooked about 30 pounds of pulled pork for the reception **by the way...I'm not sure if I ever told y'all about our wedding but we had it in our back yard in Charles City, VA, and we cooked ALL of the food for it ourselves....see...our wedding picture was taken on our front porch**
So if you're looking for something to serve at your Super Bowl party this year...look no further. Once the pork belly is braised the possibilities are endless. Everyone at your party will squeal over my Braised Pork Belly.
1 five pound slab of pork belly
2 large carrots chopped (large pieces)
1 onion chopped (large pieces)
2 stalks celery chopped (large pieces)
3 cups chicken stock
2 tbs orange jam
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp onion powder
4 whole cloves
Salt and Pepper
If you're planning on pulling the pork once it's done I suggest leaving the skin on. It keeps the fat from rendering off and makes the pulled pork very moist. If you want to serve the pork belly as a whole portion for dinner, take the skin off (just the skin...leave ALL of the fat) and score the fat, then salt and pepper. OR you could do half and half like I did. The pork on the left has been skinned, the pork on the right has not.
Set the oven to broil and broil the skin/fat side first until browned (about 10 mins), then flip and broil the bottom (flesh) side until browned. Remove from the broiler and add all of the veggies. Then flip the meat so it's skin/fat side up. Mix all of the other ingredients together (stock, jam, sugar, allspice, onion powder, cloves) and pour mixture into the baking dish. Lower the heat to 300 degrees, cover the dish tightly with tin foil and cook for 2 hours. After 2 hours pull the sides of the foil back to vent but still leave some of the foil on and bake for another 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
This pork will be so tender you won't believe it. If you're serving it as a main course piece of protein I suggest throwing some tiny potatoes in the cooking liquid during the last 20 mins of cooking for the starch portion of the meal, and for the veg portion, I highly suggest an apple/fennel slaw (recipe below). I also braised some green cabbage in some rendered pork fat for the hubby because he loves it.
If you're going to pull the pork for sandwiches I recommend using Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce, thinned with a touch of apple cider vinegar as the sauce. I can't tell you the hubbie's famous North Carolina Style BBQ sauce recipe (I'm not even sure I know it), but I can tell you that this mixture is pretty darn good. You can serve this with the apple fennel slaw too and be sure to have some extra soft rolls for the pork (we like potato rolls).
Apple Fennel Slaw:
1 green apple, cored and sliced into very thin matchsticks
1 bulb of fennel, cored and sliced into very thin matchsticks
1 tbs mayo
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
a dash of celery seed
a dash of onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the may, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, celery seed and onion powder together and toss with the apple and fennel. Salt and pepper it to taste then let sit in the refrigerator at least 1 hour. You can play around with the amount of dressing (I almost always eyeball it) but this will at least get you started. Enjoy!