Monday, June 14, 2010

Back at last

They say that bacon is the gateway meat. Well for me it is the doorway back into flogging. Unfortunately, there is a large population of people that do not get to enjoy bacon. I am not talking about those crazy vegans, fuck them. I mean there are good, honest, meat eating citizens that cannot eat bacon due to the dictates of their faith.
Well I have a preparation that will make you forever forget about bacon. I am serious, you just wait.

This technique is old school and unfortunately it is not a challenge that most home cooks take on very often. This is too bad. Confit is a preservation technique which is, for obvious reasons, not really necessary anymore. A confitted piece of meat will last, even unrefrigerated for a month or more in a cool cellar. If you are not familiar I hope this will provide the necessary inspiration. Unfortunately if are not familiar you will probably be unprepared as well. Fear not, I will provide all of the preparatory information at the end of the post.

Confit of Pork Belly
One piece pork belly from a heritage breed, organically raised hog. (Note that these additional qualifiers are NOT optional. If you are going to go through the trouble of this preparation, and it takes about a week, it is not worth it if you are not going to use the best meat that you can find.)

one piece pork belly, about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 oz kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pink salt* (optional)

1/2 t coriander
10 bay leaves, crushed
1 t black pepper
pinch cumin
1 T pimenton
2 t thyme (dried, if fresh use 1 1/2T)

Mix the cure ingredients (the salts) and the spices together and rub all over the pork belly, being sure to cover evenly and completely.
Wrap in plastic and place in a non-reactive container. Place in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours, turning once.

After curing, remove the pork from the fridge and rinse and dry thoroughly. Turn the oven to 300.
Place a heavy bottomed pot or a dutch oven on the stove on medium low heat. Add approximately 3-6 lbs of lard** This amount will vary greatly depending on the size of your vessel in relation to the size of the pork.
Once the fat is just melted, submerge the pork in the fat. The pork must be covered by the fat by about an inch or so.
Place the pot in the oven and cook until the pork is very tender, 4 to 5 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and allow the pork to cool in the fat.

Once cooled, transfer the pork to a smaller, non-reactive container that will just hold it. Cover it with the cooking fat and place a piece of plastic film on top. Weight the pork down with about 5 pounds overnight in the fridge, at least 12 hours.

The next day, after the pork has been pressed, remove the plastic wrap and add a bit more melted fat to completely cover the pork.

This is ready to eat now of course, in the sense that it is cooked. However it will continue to develop over the next few days in the fridge covered in the fat. Consider it completed after three days in the fridge.
This will last, covered in fat in the fridge for three months or more.

To serve:
Turn oven to 350 F.
Remove the pork from the fridge and scrape away the fat. Slice the pieces that you plan to eat, into the desired shape. It is much easier to cut when it is cold.
Heat a heavy pan, cast iron, over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the pork, fat side down and turn down the heat to medium low. Allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes to develop a crust.
Slide the pan into the oven to heat the belly through for about 10 minutes.

Serve with, well... more fucking pork belly!
I am not joking. This will make you forget about, something. What was it?

*The pink salt in this recipe is completely optional. The pork is cooked and so it is unnecessary, however the pork will not have that lovely cured flavor without it. I suppose you are expecting a note about the health concerns or an explanation about what pink salt is. Well, you are already on the internet. I am not your fucking mother!

**While lard can be had from the store, usually an Asian or Latin market, these fats are often hydrogenated. This somewhat defeats the purpose of using lovely pork fat in the first place. No worries, make your own. Pork fat by the way is definitely GOOD fat. And not just because it is delicious. Pork fat, especially leaf lard is mostly made up of monounsaturated fats. Most of these are short and medium chain fatty acids. This is indeed the best kind of fat. It also contains a lot of nutrients and fat soluble vitamins. So stock up, and no more guilt for that second helping!

Rendering your own leaf lard.
1. Find a quality butcher, purchase about 6 lbs of leaf lard.
2. Remove the paper like membrane and discard
3. Cut the fat into very small pieces and place in a large pot
4. place in a 25o F oven, render for 4 to 10 hours, stirring about every 40 - 60 minutes
5. strain the fat and store in the fridge or freezer

Oh by the way, remember those guys with the religious objections to bacon. Apparently it is to pork in general. So sorry, guess this one wont work out for you. Although, really no pork! Maybe you should reconsider your faith. Just a thought. Happy eating!