"Any processed chicken from any place - I'll order it in a heartbeat. I'm very picky about my pork, though."
There’s a fantastic expectation that comes from your friends when you invite them over for dinner, especially when they know that you work in a restaurant. Each time I host dinner in my humble two bedroom apartment to a full table of friends, I shamefully wonder to myself sometimes if this is what it was like to be the popular blonde, Newport Beach dwelling, football jock in high school.
To be honest, I’m sure there’s a bit of a placebo effect going on as well - I’m positive that if I served a group of twenty three year olds something a little more humble, maybe a beef bourguignon, or a fantastic plate of spaghetti and meatballs, that they would still be equally impressed they ate dinner made by an “(oh my god you’re a) 'chef.' ” The cold truth is that the one person who needs the most impressing is myself, whose exorbitant ego and need to over-deliver bites me in the ass every. single. goddamn. time.
So instead of a one pot, family style dinner, my hubris decided one week on a 3 course plated meal (for 12 people no less!), knowing full well that no rational or sane host would ever do what I embarked upon, making full on prep lists on my sole day off from work, and spending nearly ten hours cooking in my meager apartment kitchen, intermingling the making of ice cream base, demi-glace, and roasted pork belly with repeated dishwashing sessions.
Don’t be like me. Don’t stand there all sweaty and dirty at 8:30 PM, proclaiming “It was all so damn easy”, when in reality you’re tired and pissed at yourself for not spending your day off drinking beer and watching Netflix or the new Star Wars movie. (More importantly, don’t say that dinner was so easy that you don’t even need help cleaning up the fantastic mess you clearly do actually need help with.)
Except that Momofuku’s pork belly that night was really fucking good- unctuous and fatty, salty and crisp, coating everyone’s lips in a thin film of pork fat that left a lingering savoriness to the bitter leaves of endive, only to be refreshed by segments of grapefruit so the process can begin all over again with each bite. The slower, dry, cooking process renders out all of the excess fat, leaving you with not only a belly that actually contains a proper amount of pork, but a plethora of fat just waiting to be used with reckless abandon along with those extra five pounds of meat you'll most likely end up with. Have you ever had pork belly tacos fried in its own fat yet? I have, and it's expletively awesome.
ROASTED PORK BELLY + GRAPEFRUIT & ENDIVE SALAD
for the pork belly
slightly modified from Momofuku
one whole slab of pork belly (6 - 9 lbs)*
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of pork belly
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar per pound of pork belly
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fish sauce
*I’ll be the first to concede that 6-9 pounds of pork belly is entirely excessive for a salad, but since when has having leftover pork belly been a problem?
for the caramelized shallot vinaigrette
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup shallots, minced (approx. 3 medium shallots)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup light olive oil
for the salad
belgian endive leaves, separated
little gem lettuce
pears, thinly sliced
radishes, thinly sliced
mis en place: pork belly
The night before you would like to serve the belly, mix together the salt and sugar and rub it over the entire belly. Nestle it in a large roasting pan (I do prefer a disposable foil one), and park it in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours, and no more than twenty four.
The morning of, preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the belly in the oven for about one hour, until it's beautifully browned, with spots of crispy dark edges. Meanwhile, mix together the mustard, honey, and fish sauce. Brush the glaze onto the belly, reduce the oven to 250°F, and roast for another hour to an hour and a half until tender.
Allow the belly to cool, and let it rest in the refrigerator until you're ready to fire so it has a chance to firm up for clean slices.
mis en place: caramelized shallot vinaigrette
In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium low heat until softly bubbles. Add the shallots and sugar; season with salt. Sweat for 15-20 minutes until lightly caramelized. Stir the caramelized shallots with the remaining ingredients, and season with salt to taste.
Slice the chilled pork belly into thick slices.
Preheat a non-stick pan on medium high heat with a little bit of neutral oil. Sear the belly until a golden brown crust develops on each side. If you’re an ambitious idiot and are plating twelve of these salads, you can park seared pieces in a low oven while you finish the rest. Place a piece of belly on the plate, and spoon a bit of the vinaigrette around it. Arrange pieces of the endive and lettuce alongside, and place the shaved radishes, pears, and grapefruit segments on top. Dress with more of the vinaigrette and a sprinkle of sea salt to finish.