Sunday Lunch: Double Deep-fried Pork Belly Confit
It is probably not the best time to experiment with new recipes and techniques when people are round for Sunday lunch. But my curiosity got the better of me. So had a go at confit-ing some pork belly (obtained on discount from Waitrose at less than £4 for about 2.5 kg): – exciting stuff (for me at least):
Excavated from the solidified fat (an exciting task in itself, pretending to be archaeologists etc), the pork belly slices were then to be deep fried in the same fat. As first-time visitors to the church and old hands sat chatting in the sunshine, nibbling hold-the-fort tapas, I contemplated the hazards of a virgin attempt at deep-frying. Being fully aware of my innate incompetence (having already had to rescue some plastic sausage packaging melting on a hot hob), a curate decided we needed a powder fire-extinguisher on standby.
Then, when it became apparent from my standing halfway across the kitchen, timid of the popping and spluttering hot oil, that there would be no lunch if he didn’t do something, the curate hazarded his shirt and, despite having no experience in the matter himself, played with the bubbling stuff (optimum temperature: 180°C). Refining his methodology and technique as he went along, there was soon a good supply of crispy double deep-fried pork on the table. Unfortunately, as he overloaded the penultimate batch into the small pot, hot oil frothed and bubbled over and flooded the hob and cascaded down the oven. Even more unfortunately, i then attempted to mop up the oil with a paper kitchen towel that soon started to smolder from the heat of the hob. The observant and quick-thinking curate had to save the kitchen and our collective skin by snatching the towels and dowsing them in running water.
Thus pre-emptively rescued from no main meal and an early death, we sat down to a late Sunday lunch with a big bowl of spinach + strawberry salad with balsamic + honey + poppy-seed dressing and sweet potato mash. It was good that we had a buffer for people we happened upon at the morning meeting and spontaneously asked along. And it was great to have brothers and sisters from all over the world (America, Martinique, England, Ghana, South Africa, Malaysia) working to assemble the tapas and the salad, and serve each other, and be generally good at this disastrous attempt at feeding.
Jim Drohman’s Pork Belly Confit Recipe
For the dry cure
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 bay leaves, crumbled
10 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt [used a mixture of Maldon flakes and table salt]
1 teaspoon pink salt (see Note) [left this out]
6 pounds pork belly, skin removed and cut into 1-by-3-inch chunks
dry white wine, as needed
rendered pork or duck fat, as needed [used 4 blocks of lard]
canola oil or rendered pork or duck fat, for deep-frying [used the confit-ed fat]
1. Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl and stir to distribute the seasonings evenly.
2. Toss the pork with the cure to coat evenly. Pack into a nonreactive container and cover with white wine. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 120°C. Remove the pork from the cure and pat the pieces dry with paper towels. Place the pork in an ovenproof pot or Dutch oven and cover with the rendered fat. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, then place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the pork is fork-tender, about 2 to 3 hours.
4. Remove the pork from the oven and cool to room temperature in the fat. If you simply can’t wait to eat this succulent bundle when it has finished its confit (we highly recommend chilling all confit, which intensifies the juicy tenderness of the meat), you can pour off and reserve the fat, then return the pan to the stovetop over high heat until the meat is nicely browned. If you have the stamina to wait, refrigerate the pork in the pan it was cooked in or transfer to another container and add the fat; the pork should be completely submerged in fat. Refrigerate until completely chilled, or for up to 2 months.
5. To serve, remove the pork from the refrigerator, preferably a few hours ahead. Remove the pork from the fat and wipe off the excess. In a deep, heavy pot, heat the oil for deep-frying to 175°C to 190°C. Deep-fry the pork belly until crispy and heated through, about 2 minutes if it was at room temperature. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Note: Pink salt, a curing salt with nitrite, is called by different names and sold under various brand names, such as tinted cure mix or T.C.M., DQ Curing Salt, and Insta Cure #1. The nitrite in curing salts does a few special things to meat: It changes the flavor, preserves the meat’s red color, prevents fats from developing rancid flavors, and prevents many bacteria from growing.
© 2005 Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
spinach, snap peas, other discounted leaves
four-parts olive oil
one-part aged balsamic vinegar
one-part floral honey
one tsp poppy seeds
strawberries, hulled and halved