Everyone knows bacon.
Almost everyone knows that bacon comes from a pig (turkey bacon is not bacon).
Fewer people know that bacon is cured pork belly (know where your food comes from!).
And not many at all have experienced the magic that is a roasted slab of fresh, uncured pork belly, before it undergoes that transformation into bacon. But we’re going to remedy that situation right now.
I was first exposed to pork belly at one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world, Artisans. And what a first exposure it was. Since pork belly contains a significant amount of fat, it turns out crazy tender if you cook it right. While it’s cooking, that fat slowly melts and works its way deep into the meat, so what you’re left with nearly falls apart just by looking at it.
The key is slooooow. If you think you can fry a hunk of pork belly up like a chop, your experience will be… lacking, to put it mildly. Many people braise it, but we’re going to slow-roast it. Don’t start this at 8:00 if you’re looking to eat before bed.
The quality of your finished product starts with the quality of your meat, so if you can, find a good cut of local, pastured pork (a pound or two should be fine).
Okay, you have your pork belly; now what?
If it’s frozen, keep it in the fridge overnight to thaw. When you’re ready to cook it, take it out and pat dry. With the fat/skin side up, score diagonally in two directions, keeping the cuts shallow to avoid the meat.
This application uses a dry rub – I’ll tell you what I used, but tweak it as you see fit. In a bowl, combine a little salt, some black pepper, a heap of brown sugar, some parsley, a dash of cinnamon, and a pinch of chipotle powder (or more, if you like spicy). Rub this all over the meat, coating everything thoroughly.
Preheat your oven to 450 F. Put the pork belly, still fat/skin side up, into a small roasting pan. (Note: I also cut up some carrots and potatoes, drizzled them with a little oil, salt and pepper, and threw them into the dish with the pork for an easy one pan meal – delicious)
Put the pan in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The top should start to brown and the fat sizzle.
Reduce the heat to about 325 F and leave it alone for at least the next hour and a half, two if you’re patient.
Remove from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes. I know, lots of waiting involved with this one.
Cut it up and eat. Since this is such a rich meat, I’d recommend that you not act as though you’re eating a 16-ounce porterhouse and keep the portions small to start. This is almost more of an accompaniment than the main focus. But that’s fine – if you don’t devour the entire thing in one sitting, that just means you’ll have leftovers.