quite the belly…

March 25th, 2008 · 26 Comments


i know… i’ve been going on and on about this slab-o-pork for awhile now, haven’t i? but really, it all began just 2 weeks ago. well, that was the day the pork belly arrived. but by the time it landed at my door i had already spent some time deciding on how i would go about handling this pristine 8 lb. belly, and the bottom line was that i weighed some varying options and chose to go down the dan barber – of famed ‘blue hill/blue hill at stone barns restaurants – path and use his cure recipe.


(for scale…) and here’s the deal. well, my deal anyway. if i am overnighting a pork belly all the way to nashville, tn from ‘niman ranchland‘ – i’m going to be using the best ingredients that i can get my hands on. so i ordered my spices from ‘penzeys‘ and got grinding. i’m including a recipe – of sorts, but there can be so very many variables, like the size of your belly (hehe) or your particular level of neurosis when it comes to following directions – or not, therefore bringing in to play any and all opinionated, albeit highly creative input you might have. but the good news is that through all of this i have now found out first hand that it is pretty much impossible to actually destroy a pork belly. and that this cure mix is so damn right – and then there’s all that fat which as it turns out is pretty forgiving – that is, on everything except perhaps your very own belly… anyway, use this as a guideline, check out amy’s recent post on her experience with ‘The Belly’ – and then if you’re so inclined, and i believe you are – get intuitive. but i’m telling you – this ‘dan barber pork belly cure mix’ – i can vouch that it is absolutely spot-on…


dan barber’s pork belly (as told by me)
adapted from a 2005 epicurious recipe

(to grind – use your whirly bird coffee grinder and when you’re finished just add some white rice and run it for 30 seconds or so and it will clean it completely – otherwise you’ll need to get out the mortar and pestle and have at it)

1/4 cup fennel seed
1/4 cup cumin seed
1/4 cup plus 2 T coriander seed
3 T black peppercorns
1 T white peppercorns
4 star anise
4 pieces of cinnamon
4 teaspoons whole clove
1 cup salt
2/3 cup sugar

grind the spices in a coffee grinder in batches. combine ground spices with the salt and sugar. heavily coat the belly, cover with foil and let it sit in the refrigerator, undisturbed for 3 days. on the third day rinse the belly well, dry it thoroughly and wrap tightly in plastic, placing it back into the refrigerator. the meat will hold for a few days at the very least now that it’s been cured. you’ll need a baking pan that will fit the belly comfortably but without too much extra room. place it in the pan skin up add about 2 quarts of rich chicken stock (i used a mix of my stock and water) so that it comes about 3/4 of the way up the meat braise at 200F for 8 – 10 hours (as in overnight) remove from the oven, draining the braising liquid into another pot and let the belly rest in the refrigerator for at least a day to allow for the flavors to really develop. put the liquid into the freezer for about 90 minutes so that the fat comes to the surface and solidifies without freezing the rest of the liquid break off the fat (i saved mine in a freezer bag for future sausage making) and reserve about 3 cups. then a few hours before your dinner, place the meat along with the ‘caramel vinegar sauce’ (recipe below) into the oven for roughly an hour right before you serve – lightly score the skin (i overdid it and went too deep – live and learn), cut into serving pieces and sear skin-side down in a hot pan. to serve, spoon the caramel vinegar sauce over the meat and lentils.


(it’s difficult to see the depth of the fat here but it’s quite a big pot and the fat is at about 1/3" at center and at least 1/2" on the edges)

i decided early on that i’d be serving this over ‘lentils de puy‘ a much loved variety, grown in the volcanic soil of the auvergne region of southern france. why? because they are some esoteric little suckers, and well – i obviously get off on that. but, even after all the thought and consideration as to my plan of attack – right in the eleventh hour, i decided that i needed to make a sauce. and i found my inspiration from this recipe and then kinda riffed off of that.

caramel vinegar sauce

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick – broken
juice of 2 oranges and their zest
2 cups of the reserved defatted braising liquid
veal demi-glace – i used a 1.5 ounce pre-made package

put the sugar, vinegar, star anise and cinnamon in a small saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, or until syrupy. stir in the braising liquid and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced. add the orange juice, zest and the demi glace and reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until once again syrupy. salt to taste

dear readers, it was really good. like really really good. and i was pretty damn pleased with myself. pork belly has totally got the double whammy of culinary "u" words goin on. umami and unctuous. this dish was part of a wonderful dinner that was held at my best friend angela‘s home. in attendance were 2 of nashville’s most talented chefs, john david crowe of ‘360 bistro‘ and laura wilson from ‘ombi restaurant‘, as well as the incredibly cool carrington fox – food critic for the ‘nashville scene‘. oh – and then a few of us foodie plebeians. there were many wonderful dishes served as in the sweetbreads and mache fennel salad with blood orange – brought over by john and prepared on the premises, and a caramel chestnut torte from laura, along with her amazing fennel and anise meringues that i could not stop eating. but regarding the final plated pic – there’s a blaring lack of the desired ‘money shot’ that would do the belly justice, especially after all we’d been through together. but please note that by the time this dish rolled around, we’d been feasting and drinking quite nicely. cary whipped out his ‘point and shoot’ and luckily saved the day – or the moment would have been consumed as quickly as the fast disappearing pork on our plates. please know that we tried, but these shots are off the cuff and are just from around the table. so instead of quality photography, i will just have to plow you with quantity…


(a few bites in…)





for our gathering i also made two other dishes that i’ll tell you about later.

but (you ask) – was there any more pork involved?

but (i say) – of course…

Tags: pork

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donald // Mar 26, 2008 at 5:37 am

    Claudia, that looks excellent. I wonder though, what about that layer of fat. Is is bacony or what? Do you cut around it? I am a neophyte.

  • 2 Mary Coleman // Mar 26, 2008 at 6:22 am

    You did that belly proud, Claudia. I love the idea of the caramel vinegar sauce. Sounds too good.

  • 3 amy @ minimally invasive // Mar 26, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Is it too early in the morning to want to run in slow motion through a field of that crispy pork skin?


    Beautiful, beautiful. I’ll be giving that cure a try just as soon as I can stomach more belly. Ha!

  • 4 mari // Mar 26, 2008 at 6:40 am

    And here I was proud of having rendered my own little bit of lard…

  • 5 Peter // Mar 26, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Wicked. As soon as the lardo is cured I’m totally making that.

  • 6 ntsc // Mar 26, 2008 at 7:13 am

    I have to get another belly. The first was just what I could find, and that took three weeks, but I’ve found a market near me http://www.grassfedmeat.net/
    that looks to be good quality meat and I think purvey to CIA.

    And Stone Barn is well thought of by us.

  • 7 NIna // Mar 26, 2008 at 7:20 am

    This is such an amazing piece of pork. Well done.

  • 8 Flanboyant Eats // Mar 26, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Donald told me about you so I had to come by only to find a really good recipe for caramel vinegar. Oh yum!!! I don’t go pork products, but I sure would try
    the beans (and have some right now in my cupboard) and the sauce over some fish!


  • 9 Diana // Mar 26, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Mmmm… With no respect meant to our vegetarian friends, where was it that I heard bacon referred to as a “gateway food”?

  • 10 mr. pink // Mar 26, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I was invited to share this meal and couldn’t go. May I stop kicking myself in the ass now?

  • 11 Mal Carne // Mar 26, 2008 at 10:06 am

    That looks awesome. Going to have to get some belly and try that. Is “porkgasm” a word?

    This truly is “the year of the bacon”.

  • 12 michelle @ tns // Mar 26, 2008 at 11:11 am

    you know, if you really want to get on my good side before i get all famous and shit, you could have one of these sent to me.

    there’s a dish really close to this served at harold dieterle’s (top chef 1) place in nyc. it’s pretty fucking awesome.

  • 13 Jennifer Hess // Mar 26, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Wow, the skin on that belly is just gorgeous, and I love the idea of serving it with lentils.

  • 14 claudia // Mar 26, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    donald – it is fatalicious. enough said.

    mary – too too too good… for birthdays and christmas and thanksgiving – only.
    and dinner parties…

    amy – stomach more belly… good one, girl. you crack you up! i just know it!

    mari – be proud, be proud!!!

    peter – i’ve never done the lardo thing. but i had it at il buco in nyc. i love that kinda thing. if done well, like marrow it’s betta than butta.

    ntsc – the farmers market on union square must have some great sources.

    nina – niman ranch did a fine job of growing that pig – no doubt!

    flanboyant – welcome! this sauce would work on a bunch of things. halibut, grouper, shrimp…. you get even leave out the demi-glace…

    diana – or even better, i’ve heard that it’s often “the one exceeption….”

    pink – we love you. we want you. we need you at the next gathering… NEED!

    mal carne – porkgasm. perfect. hey everyone didja hear that? porkgasm!

    michelle – i’m trying, i’m trying… on perilla’s site if you go to menu a bunch of pics fade in and out and the belly is one of them.. beautiful…

    jennifer – the actual skin was where i went from an A+ to a B+. looks perfect but was chewy. not that perfect slight crunch. next time i’ll get it perfect. but it may be awhile…

  • 15 ntsc // Mar 26, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Believe me I’ve thought of Union Square, but I’ve no place to put the belly during the day and I’m only a little more than an hour from Rhinebeck.

  • 16 melissa // Mar 26, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    that looks amazing claudia! can’t have enough of that pork belly. another thing to ponder on my neverending “to try” list.

  • 17 Jessica // Mar 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Wowz. That looks great!

  • 18 Peter // Mar 26, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Claudia- Il Buco makes all their own. I think it’s as good as anywhere in NYC.

    ntsc- Fleisher’s is the best, and they’ll get you anything you ask for if you call ahead (*sniff*- except caul fat.)

  • 19 Dan // Mar 27, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Oooooh. You need to go to Le Puy in the Massif Central (strange designation they gave to the part of France that isn’t the south, isn’t the Atlantic coast, isn’t the German speaking parts of Alsace and Lorraine, and isn’t Paris).

    There are really two reasons. Those lentils are one; the medieval pilgrimage trail that started there in the 9th century and ended at St. Jacques de Compostale in Spain is the other.

    They do things with lentils that make me giddy. And spicy sausages. And crusty bread.

    oh. my. god.

  • 20 Lauren // Mar 28, 2008 at 9:07 am

    wow. that looks great. see being gone i have missed the pork extravaganza. i’m not yet porked out.

  • 21 democommie // Mar 30, 2008 at 9:23 am


    I am in awe. I’ve often lamented the fact that for years I was not allowed, as a child, to eat the fat on my steaks and chops. Fortunately, as I reached my majority I realized that I could partake of strong drink and as much fat as I wanted–within reason.

    I was in CT last week and a friend took me to dinner at a “Seafood” place. I had fish and chips that were way overpriced. I do beleive the fish was portioned by somebody like Fishery Products in Danvers, MA and I was incredibly disappointed but did not let on to my host.

    So, I get back to Syracuse, NY on Friday and stop in a place on Clinton Square that has a fish sandwich with fries and slaw for $ 7.95 that was a slab of haddock (about 12 oz) on a dinky little roll with a mound of fries and decent slaw–1/2 the price, twice the fish and fresh or fresh frozen. Go figure.

  • 22 Justin // Mar 31, 2008 at 5:50 am

    No need in telling you the belly makes me swoon, but that dinnerware is badass, and that table is gorgeous. Here’s to you and more Nashville foodie exploits!

  • 23 lifeinrecipes // Apr 1, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Please oh please oh please invite me over the next time you make pork belly. You are totally killing me
    ‘cos I have tofu baking in my oven.

  • 24 Peter // Apr 12, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Claudia, it’s spectacular! I’ve been humming & hawing with how to do my first pork belly and you’ve given me some great info on how to approach it.

  • 25 _ts // Apr 18, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Acid really goes well with them fat bellies. For a decidedly Asian belly, try doing an adobo! =D

    Pork Belly, Two Ways:

    We also had problems with the skin… perhaps deep-frying is the way to go? We’re so ill-equipped to deep fry, though….

  • 26 cook eat FRET - what’s mediterranean for huevos rancheros? // Aug 1, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    […] lentils had been in my freezer since the early spring porkbelly chronicles .  these were the wonderful puy lentils from france and they’d […]

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