Thursday, January 26, 2012

Braised Pork Belly... Asian style with Coca Cola


let's face can't go wrong with Pork Belly.

any way you cook it, it will be will be will be fatty.  it will be unctuous and it will be worth every melt in your mouth delicious guilty morsel you find shoveling in your mouth.   most likely you will have porcine butter dripping down your chin as you polish off your plate and find yourself wanting more.

 i have cooked quite a few pork bellies in the past year and my favorite go-to recipe has been Jamie Oliver's Crispy Skin  Roasted Pork Belly. if you have never cooked a belly before i highly suggest giving it a go.  Jamie's recipe is too easy not to try.  

this time i wanted something different.
 i wanted that soft pillow-like little nugget of meaty fatty goodness.
BINGO...a slow braise with Asian aromatics.
i was looking for something like a Red Cooking or a Chairman Mao style recipe with that caramel looking glaze, but instead i went for a simple flavorful braise. change things up a bit i decided to add a coca cola.  when reduced i think coca cola has a caramel worked.
did it make a huge difference?   i have no idea.  i didn't get the "mahogany" glaze, BUT i did succeed in making beautiful little porcine packages swimming in a delicious light, well rounded...almost, dare i say, 
UMAMI-ish subtle broth.

for this recipe i combined ingredients and techniques from 2 great bloggers (links below).  please check out their blogs and refer to them as i did.  being this is the first time i attempted an Asian braise with pork belly, they were quite helpful.

this is what i did for...

2.2 lbs pork belly
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 star anise
1/3 cup dry sherry ( you should use Shaoxing wine if possible)
1 1/2 inch(approx.) fat stub of fresh ginger sliced, thick - 5 or 6 slices
5 scallions, cut into 3 inch sticks
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
2 arbol chili, whole...optional
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 cups water
1 can coca cola

boil some water in a stock pot big enough to fit the whole slab of belly.  par boil the belly for 3-4 minutes.  this removes any impurities that might be lingering.  discard the liquid and clean the pot if using the same one for cooking.  when cool enough to handle cut into approximate 2 -2 1/2 inch squares.  tieing isn't necessary, but it looks cute and it will keep the belly pieces from separating during cooking.  tie them tight because they will shrink.
in a pot big enough to hold the pork belly pieces in one layer (i used a 5 1/2 qt. cast iron-enamel) add the brown sugar, cold water, sherry or Shoaxing wine, ginger slices, cinnamon stick, scallions, arbol chilis, soy sauce and coca cola.  STIR to combine and add the pork belly pieces, skin side down.  at this time i removed about 2 cups of the liquid because you want the liquid to just cover the pork belly.  depending on the size pot you choose you will probably need to remove some it in case you need to add some back in during cooking.  the pork should not be just floating around in the pot.  they need to stay skin side down then later skin side up.  bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover pan and braise for 30-40 minutes.
after 30-40 minutes, turn the pork skin side up, cover and braise for another 2 - 3 hours.  a knife should easily pierce the pork when done. broth did not reduce to 1/2 as one of the recipes said.  i did not get the mahogany color on my pork belly...i was hoping for a deeper thicker braising liquid.

BUT... i did end up with a light, smooth Asian flavored broth that was a lovely compliment to the unctuous fatty pork belly nuggets.
for the broth i used a fat separator, then strained the liquid through cheese it twice if necessary for a clean-clear broth.  check for might want to add a touch of salt.  your looking for savory, but with a touch of sweet.

as shown in the photos...serving it plain and simple with a bit of the braising broth really let the pork belly shine on it's own.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dump Pound Cake

sorry i took so long to get a post out.
i have been so darn sick...
my caviar for New Years is still in the fridge and i never had my black eyed peas.  not to worry, i know i'll get to it.   i need all the luck i can get.

meanwhile, i could not stay out of the kitchen even sick as a dog...
come to think of sick can a dog get?...

so...i'll have a few tasty interesting things posted soon, but in the meantime i thought this "Dump" pound cake was pretty good. i think i'm a new fan of dump cakes...
dump everything in a mixer, let'er rip and start in a cold oven...
an absolute NO BRAINER...i think that's what we all need after the holiday baking extravaganza.
it's too easy not to give it a try and it's a simple recipe to have on hand for those unexpected visitors that expect homemade baked goods when they "pop by for the weekend".

pound cakes in general can be the perfect vehicle for so many treats.
for instance...

use it as french toast for Sunday brunch.

cut into lady fingers and make a quick fresh fruit Triffle.

how about a dessert panini with chocolate, peanut butter and bananas...or marshmallows.

cut into cubes and toast as you would croutons then layer in a parfait with vanilla cream and berries.

slice and saute with brown butter and serve warm with a cold scoop of ice cream and ooozing warm caramel sauce.

or...just a simple slice and a cuppa afternoon tea.
i think there should always be a pound cake in the freezer or a Dump Cake recipe in you repertoire.

many thanks to the submitter, Carol Pellegrinelli, but i wish i could also give some props to "Elaine"
thanks Elaine's where ever you are...

2 cups flour (i used 2 1/4 due to the comments on original)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter (1 cup), softened
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, room temp.
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
note...i added 1/3 tsp lemon and 1/3 tsp lavender extract
plus 1 rounded tsp lavender buds and a little lemon zest

put ingredients in bowl of stand mixer.  MIX FOR 20 MINUTES.  coat tube pan ( i used an Angel Food Cake pan) with vegetable spray.  put batter in pan and place in a COLD OVEN.  set oven to 350 F degrees and bake for 1 hour.  check with toothpick...i think mine could have used just a few more minutes.

by the way...this is one of many pound cakes i have tried recently and i was pretty pleased.  like i's just too easy not to try.  this one had the perfect texture and was nice and dense, not cakey...
i don't want cakey with something called a POUND CAKE !
one thing i might add is that it could use a little more flavor...i was a bit shy with the lemon and lavender...i think vanilla bean would add a nice touch if going for plain or add some mini chocolate chips?...


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