Pork Belly

Lately there seems to be a conspiracy for pork belly recipes to overtake porn as the majority of internet traffic. Here’s my contribution.

This is only the second time I’ve cooked pork belly and I can see why it’s currently in vogue. Well, let’s be honest. David Chang probably has a lot to do with the recent surge in pork traffic on the internet. The current fashionability of this cut doesn’t seem to have influenced my local butchers though who are adamantly sticking with the tried and true chicken breasts, lamb chops and beef mince. Not that I’m complaining, I barely need an excuse to ride over to West End and picking up a big slab of belly from Hong Xuong is more than a sufficient reason.

omnom

This cut of meat is pretty damned rich and it’s really freaking delicious. Invite friends over. Like the Musketeers (all for one and one for all) you’ll each prevent one another from eating yourselves into a semi-comatose state, though not so much out of a genuine kinship but a combined effort of greedy self interest which should result in a lack of remaining pork provided you haven’t over catered.

The meat puts up barely any resistance to the onslaught of your enclosing teeth. The fat dissipates almost before you have time to savour it, coating your mouth in a deliciously sweet, oily film. Finally the skin puts up a decent fight eventually yielding with an audible crunch and a salty finish.

Pork Belly

1kg (or so) slab of pork belly
soy sauce
sugar
mirin

wasabi, hoisin sauce to serve

You need a deep baking tray for this one. It should be deeper than your pork is tall because you want to fully submerge the meat in water.

1. Using an actually sharp knife, score the skin across the width down to but not including the flesh at about 2cm intervals.

2. Boil enough water to submerge the meat and mix in soy sauce, mirin and sugar to taste. For paranoia’s sake I’m going to tell you to taste it before you pour it over the meat.

3. Pour the liquid into the baking tray with the meat skin side up and cover with aluminium foil. Try not to pour directly onto the skin as it will cause it to shrink. Let it sit for about an hour like this.

4. Heat an oven to 160 celcius. Pour off liquid from the tray so around 2cm remains, or about halfway up the cut of meat. Cook it covered for two hours.

5. Remove the pork and pour off the remaining liquid. Increase the heat to 250 celcius. My oven heats up pretty quickly so I tend to just return the pork to the oven once I’ve poured off the liquid.

6. Heavily coat the pork skin with salt flakes and return uncovered to the oven. Cook until it’s done basically. You want it to be golden and crispy all over. If you have a knack for timing come back when it’s done, otherwise check it at some frequency relative to your level of anxiety.

Pops and sizzles will eminate from your oven along with a salivation inducing miasma.

Slice up the pork by continuing the score lines down through the cut of meat. Serve it in the baking tray in the backyard on a picnic rug with a lemonale each and plenty of sauce. Eat it with your hands and make sure you lick your fingers. Personally I love it with wasabi, spread thickly over the face of the slice. The pork fat and the wasabi mingle in some kind of yin yang sex in your mouth, each potentially overbearing flavour complimented perfectly by the other.

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Kaffir Lime and Szechuan Pepper Wings

Sweet, salty, sour, hot, astringent. Put it on your dinner, your lunch, your breakfast, your lover. Everything that’s within arm’s reach; put this marinade on it. Now imagine it on wings. Those with an imagination that has been ferociously degraded by instant gratification, the current state of the ‘news’ and web 2.0 can just look at this extreme close up:

Check out the fat induced bokeh.

Good. Now, regardless of your imaginative abilities you shouldn’t need further convincing that these wings are amazing. But to make absolutely sure; the fruity sourness of the kaffir limes really shines in this recipe. You simply won’t get the same results using another kind of lime. The astringency of the Szechuan peppers compliments the zesty sourness of the lime and helps round out the complex flavour combination making for one punchy marinade that leaves your mouth slightly numb and wondering what hit it yet wanting for more.

Mmmmm. Carcinogens.

Kaffir Lime and Szechuan Pepper Wings

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup light soy sauce

1/2 cup water

juice of 2 kaffir limes

2 garlic cloves

a heaped table spoon of grated ginger

plenty of chilli flakes and Szechuan peppers

1 to 2 kg segmented chicken wings

1. Combine the liquids in a medium sauce pan and dissolve the sugar over medium heat. Reduce it slightly to a viscosity similar to warm maple syrup.

2. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients sans the chicken.

3. Tightly pack the wings in a single layer and pour the sauce over the top, cover with foil and let marinate for at least an hour, preferably over night. (Bet you’ve never heard that before).

4. Heat your oven to 250 celcius.

5. Cover multiple baking trays with baking paper and evenly space the wings out on them, skin side down. You don’t want them touching. Spoon more of the marinade over each wing.

6. Keep an eye on them and turn them over half way through cooking so the skin side is face up.

7. At this point in time your new house mate will arrive. Help them move in. Forget you have wings in the oven.

8. Race to the kitchen.

9. Discover you won’t be eating tar for dinner and char some miso pasted eggplants in a skillet. Serve with rice.

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Baked Eggs

My second most favourite way to eat eggs would have to be poached. Runny on the inside with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the rich golden fattiness of the yolks yet without the greasiness that comes with fried eggs. My most favourite way to eat eggs is probably in a creme caramel or a monstrous cake of some description, but that doesn’t really count. Sometimes I feel like something different. Breakfast with a twist. I read somewhere that people look for familiarity feigning difference. Here’s looking at you Porsche owners. These baked eggs ooze out the same golden yolk you are wont to mopping up on Sunday morning, but provide you with more. Paprika makes its smokey presence known and plays well with the freshness of the parsley. You’ll need extra bread for this one to eat up all of the tomatoey goodness that the eggs are baked in. It’s simple too. You cook it in/eat it out of the one pan. Simple. And you can play around with the base. Like anchovies? Fry some with the garlic at the beginning. Craving swine? Dice up your favourite cured sausage (I like a hot cacciatori) and submerge the pieces before you bake it. Unless you have multiple skillets, you’ll have to be prepared to share. I’ll readily admit I’m a bit of a bear when it comes to sharing food off the one plate. Just look at it like a bonding session with your lucky guest. So what if they got an extra piece of bread. They got the good eggs? They’re your guest(s); they’re supposed to. How old are you? Twelve? You’re not going to die, just chill.

Baked Eggs (for two)

4 eggs

2+ teaspoons of paprika

1 teaspoon of cumin

olive oil for frying

salt to taste

1 decent sized clove of garlic, sliced

2 anchovy fillets (optional)

half a small cured sausage, diced (optional)

flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (a small handful for the base + extra for garnish)

coriander, same as the parsley

2 ripe tomatoes, diced + 1 tin of tomatoes including juice

lots of crusty bread, perhaps double what you’d have with poached eggs

1.  Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat olive oil in a heavy, oven proof skillet on medium heat and fry the garlic until soft and fragrant. If using anchovies put them in with the garlic and mash them to a paste as they fry.

2. Throw in the paprika and cumin and  stir constantly for about 1 minute to draw the flavours out.

3. Coat the diced fresh tomatoes in the garlic-anchovy-spice paste and fry until the skins shrivel and the liquid starts releasing. Try to mash them up as they cook.

4. Pour the entire contents of the tin of tomatoes into the skillet along with the parsley and coriander. Keep mashing those tomatoes. You don’t want a uniform sauce, but you also want to minimise the need for cutlery. Let it simmer for 5 minutes or so, taste it and season it with salt if you feel it needs it.

5. Try to make wells for the eggs to go in, though don’t freak out if it isn’t happening. Crack the eggs evenly spaced into the warm sauce (if you’re using sausage, push the pieces into the sauce around the eggs) and put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes. You should probably check these as they are baking. Test by gently prodding the tops of the eggs, when the whites are mostly set pull it out of the oven as the eggs with continue to cook in the residual warmth.

Garnish with the remaining parsley and coriander. Eat out of the pan on the front steps with company. A fork in one hand and a piece of buttered bread in the other.

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