On occasion, I feel that a food trend has escaped my attention, crept quietly onto the tables of the best restaurants, paraded itself on the cover of every food magazine. Most of these trends, I’ll admit, are so fleeting that they’re gone by the time I ever decide to try them in my own kitchen. Perhaps they don’t last long because many of them (Kale Everything! Quinoa Dark Chocolate!) are not so delicious. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
I first tried pork belly at Table 310, a handsome little bistro in Lexington, Ky. There, fine slices were served, quavering on a bed of local arugula, bejeweled with a fried quail’s egg. The dish was so impressive that I believed, at the time, that the chef possessed some culinary sorcery. And since my local grocery is not a purveyor of such a fine porky cut, I gave up on trying it at home.
But then one fine day, I heard about the good people at Porter Road Butcher. Pioneered by James Peisker and Chris Carter, PRB specializes in local whole-animal butchery. This yields a greater variety of cuts, and it promotes more culinary experimentation with specialties not often found in the plastic-wrapped aisles of your local grocery.
When I called them up to ask if I could take a few photos, they welcomed me with open arms, showed me around the place, eager to share their craft. And while I know that their willingness was in part due to the fact that they’re nice folks, I think it has more to do with the pride they have for their work. I left with a deep respect for their work. Oh yea, and a handful of pork belly.
Roasted Pork Belly with Savory Oats and Apple Chutney
For the Pork Belly:
1 lb pork belly
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp honey
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the belly skin-side down in a rimmed baking dish and cover with a layer of salt and pepper. Pour into the dish the apple cider vinegar, water and honey. Cover tightly with foil and let cook for 3 hours. Turn over the pork belly and let it cook 3 more hours. When done, allow the belly to cool completely in the fridge. This will ensure that every piece holds together upon being cut. Before plating, warm a saute pan on medium high heat. Slice the cold pork belly into 1/8 inch pieces and warm in the saute pan until the fat begins to render and crisp.
For the Apple Chutney:
4 gala apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp dried ginger
1 cup raisins
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and let simmer on med-low heat for 45 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
For the Savory Oats:
1 cup quick-cooking steel cut oats
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt, to taste
Bring the chicken broth and the black pepper to a boil. Add oats and cook for 7 minutes, or until the oats have softened and come together. Once the oats have cooled slightly, place them in the center of a dish, then top with the crispy pork belly, and warm apple chutney.