Braised Pork Belly with Mole Sauce, Bok Choy and Cauliflower Mash
Pork Belly. Do I even need to say more than that? Savory, indulgent, buttery pork belly. I was incredibly nervous to take my first crack at this beautiful cut of meat. I have to admit that I have never attempted. But, as part of this wonderful, exploratory food journey I have decided to embark on, I simply went for it. And, as with many things, if you put behind you your fears and simply go for what you want, it is usually worth it. A little dramatic for pork, I know, but applicable nonetheless and I absolutely do not regret making up this recipe. While I plan to continue to improve upon it and see what other versions I can make, I am pretty proud of this dish and hope you enjoy it as well. As many of you may have noticed, pork belly has become a staple on many a restaurant’s menu and every time I see it, I have to order it to see what variations others have chosen – it is always my favorite part of my meal. I am from northern Wisconsin and the first time I tried pork belly I was at the Wild Rice Restaurant in little Bayfield, Wisconsin. If you ever have the chance to go to Bayfield – do it. And while you are there definitely eat at the Wild Rice. You will not be disappointed. I saw pork belly on the menu and knew I had to finally try it – I was not let down. I know it isn’t always on their menu, but if it is – do not hesitate. It was beautifully prepared, exquisitely plated and tasted of buttery richness. I think my next favorite restaurant where I tried pork belly was at The Corner Table, here in Minneapolis. It was served on a bed of chow chow (a Southern relish made, in part, of cabbage and tasted somewhat like sauerkraut), with pickled mustard seeds and some sort of delectable sauce that had just enough heat to compliment the richness of the pork, the sourness of the chow chow and the smoothness of the mustard seeds. It was amazing, to say the least, but more on that in an upcoming post……
Back to my pork belly – I knew from experience that I really liked pork belly with some heat, so I chose to make a version of a mole sauce. I didn’t want it too spicy and I didn’t want to turn this into a full out Mexican dish, so I made my own version of it; taking bits and pieces from traditional mole sauces. I knew I wanted a bit of heat (dried Ancho chiles) and chocolate (100% cacoa)…. and I knew I wanted the pork simple, clean, and buttery. That was my starting point…. this is where I went with it:
I put a rub on it of toasted coriander, fennel, salt and pepper and let it sit overnight, wrapped in plastic wrap.
Take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Then bring a skillet or saucepan to med-high heat along with some grapeseed oil. Sear the pork belly on all sides. Place in a Dutch Oven or other stove-worthy pan. Pour in chicken or pork stock along with vegetables and herbs.
Leave in the oven at 300 degrees for 2-3 hours; then remove from pan and let cool in fridge. Letting it cool will allow you to cut it and not have it fall apart. Once you cut it into your desired-sized pieces, sear again on all sides on med-high heat and serve immediately.
While the pork belly was in the oven, I meddling with my mole sauce.
And then, somewhat at the last second, braising bok choy and boiling and blending the cauliflower mash.
The finished product.
Yes. It was amazing. But this will definitely NOT be the last time I make pork belly. Stay tuned for second, third, fourth…. well a lot of pork belly recipes. I hope you enjoy and I hope you decide to “wow” your family, significant other, your whoever – go for it.
- 1.5 pounds pork belly
- 1/2 Tablespoon of coriander (seeds or ground)
- 1/2 Tablespoon fennel seed
- 1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 Quart chicken or pork stock
- 2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
- 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
- 1 onion, cut into large chunks
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 6-8 peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 stalks fresh thyme
- 6 stalk of fresh parsley
- Toast coriander and fennel and then crush.
- Combine with salt and pepper.
- Rub all over pork belly, especially the fatty side.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
- Add grapeseed oil to saucepan and bring to medium-high heat; Sear pork belly on all sides.
- Preheat oven to 300.
- Place pork belly into dutch oven.
- Add celery, carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and stock – make sure the stock does not fully cover the pork belly, it should go about 3/4 of the way to the top.
- Place in oven for 2 -3 hours.
- Remove from oven and place pork belly on plate; Set in fridge to cool.
- Once you are ready to serve, cut the cooled pork belly in chunks.
- Sear each chunk in skillet on med-high.
- Immediately before ready to serve,
Over the next few days I will be adding additional posts with the recipes for the mole sauce, bok choy and cauliflower mash……stay tuned!