Adapted from the Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang
After a photo shoot at Yellow Wolf Farm, owner Stacy Martin sent me home with a cooler full meat that included some tasty pork bellies. Although I had eaten and drooled over them many times, I had never actually prepared it myself. For advice, I went to the all-knowing oracle “Google,” and I immediately gravitated to David Chang’s recipe from his Momofuku cookbook. Below are the results. I did a few things differently, not because a culinary genius like Mr. Chang can learn from me, but out of a need to rid a few extra things from my refrigerator that I felt would go well with the dish. I noted every change.
1. Nestle the belly in a roasting pan that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl then rub the mix over the meat; discard any excess salt and sugar. Cover the container with plastic wrap and keep in fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours. (I had some rosemary and thyme in the fridge that I wanted to use and figured it would be nice if the pork took in some of those flavors so I put a bunch below and above the pork with some cloves of smashed garlic)
2. Heat the oven to 450F. Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown. (Before cooking, I cut the slabs into inch-wide strips; if you do this it will decrease the cooking time so I did the next step of turning down the temperature to 250F after about 30 minutes)
3. Turn the oven temperature down to 250F and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the belly is tender – it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a down pillow-like yield to firm finger poke. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve for other uses. (for example sauté vegetables). Allow the belly to cool slightly. (As above the cooking time will be reduced if it’s not cooked as a whole slab so it may take only about 45 minutes to an hour)
4. When it is cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put in fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you are pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.) (If you have already sliced before cooking you can skip this and the next step)
5. Cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just for a minute or two, until jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once. (I used the reserved juice in the pan to sauté some green beans with salt and pepper.)
To find out how to get Yellow Wolf Farm’s pork bellies to your table visit their webite at yellowwolffarm.com