I had an offal weekend; an awfully offal weekend. Finding myself in Frederick at Mick’s New American Bistro where my nephew is doing his internship for culinary school, the chef gave me course after course of his favorite foods; snout to tail.
It started with lamb’s heart tartare, served with a pullet egg yolk and fresh baguette. Next came the head cheese recently made, served with true Dijon mustard and homemade pickles.
Next in line was Bison hanger steak with a chanterelle glace followed by, excuse me while I run a few laps to work off the first three courses, a cassoulet of cranberry beans, venison sausage, bison chunks and a slab of pork tenderloin wrapped in pork belly and braised.
Thanks to Chef James, I was able to wash it down with some PBR, sampling homemade Kimchee and black-eyed pea relish in between the points of interest.
What made the evening even better was that I stood in the kitchen for the two hours that I ate, just talking to James and my nephew Matt and hanging out as it were; Casual and delicious.
The next day at a country club in Alexandria with another friend Greg Sharpe, I was tasked with searing off one hundred plus portions of pork belly. For this Christmas party delight, it was served on corn spoonbread and a fabulous glaze of molasses, honey and teriyaki sauce. The idea came from my good friend Russel Cunningham at Mad Fox Brewery in Falls Church, and not armed with recipes, it was time to get to work and tweak it out.
If you like pork, namely bacon, then I suggest that you get in touch with your local butcher and procure a slab of belly for experimental purposes. Fat is flavor and there’s nary a fattier place on the pig short of the actual fat back.
A great technique is to press the belly while it’s being slow-roasted on a drip pan, which greatly reduces the fat content of the dish. Of course, there is still plenty of fat so this does not qualify for the South Beach diet, so don’t even think about it.
There are varieties of spoonbread, some being loose and some being baked and firm like a pudding or corn bread. I cooked this batch loosely so that it would act as a soft polenta. Many guests confused them for mashed potatoes in the low light until they tasted the treat. Then, it made perfect sense; corn with pork, a natural combination.
As I noted, there are probably too many ‘diet points’ in this dish to include it in your Weight Watchers rotating menu, so just enjoy it during the holidays and then buy a treadmill.
Making the drive home and thinking about the sights, smells and tastes of the weekend, I couldn’t help but to smile at the great food over the weekend and the good times had by all, regardless of the fact that we were working so hard.
3 oz. for each person of pork belly
S&P to taste
First of all, note the incredibly short list of ingredients above this first instruction. It doesn’t take much to make fat taste good, so don’t over think it. Plus more flavor will be introduced as we go along
This may be tricky for home cooks, but if you are innovative you will have no problem. Season the pork belly on a drain rack inside a roasting pan
Place another pan on top and weight it down with 1-2 pounds of bricks
Place in a slow oven for 8-12 hours. The drain rack will facilitate the dripping of much of the excess fat. The solid masses you used for weighting down, after everything comes to temperature, will transfer a nice even heat, giving the pork a nice crust
Portion the pork and either sear or set in the refrigerator until ready to use
When ready to serve, simply heat a dry frypan and sear the belly. Get a nice sizzling crust on it, serve in on a scoop of spoon bread, and garnish with your glaze
1 ½ qt. Chicken stock
6 oz. Unsalted butter
¾ c. Heavy cream
S&P to taste
Mix the cornmeal with half of the cold stock
Bring the other half of the stock to a boil and slowly pour in the mix from step 1, whisking all the while
Add the butter and cream and cook for at least 20 minutes on a medium heat
When the meal is no longer grainy, adjust the seasoning and set aside until ready to use
¼ c. Molasses
¼ c. Honey
½ c. Teriyaki (recipe follows)
Combine the ingredients and bring to a simmer and reduce until thickened
There is a great deal of sugar in here, so it will boil over. So, ensure that you are monitoring to keep it from doing so
¼ c. Soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Pineapple juice
Brown sugar to taste
Fresh ginger to taste
Fresh garlic to taste
Scallions to taste
Bring the ingredients to a simmer and let it steep for at least 30 minutes
Run through a fine mesh strainer and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.