Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fat: I'll just have a little of the white meat

I like pork belly. I used to love it, but have cooled as time passes because, like foie gras, it always makes me feel a little sick. Why? Superrich. Once a year is about right, and Cheong Liew's braised pork belly out of Jennifer McLagan's Fat did nicely for 2009. 

You start with the raw belly (which I always buy at a Chinese supermarket where you can get it for less than $2 a pound*) and marinate overnight in soy sauce, wine, spices, and tangerine peel.

Then you braise for 1 or 2 hours, ending up with tidbits of mahogany brown meat clinging to hefty chunks of succulent, velvety fat, all of it cloaked in an extremely delicious salty-sweet sauce. 

I served this last night with some long beans, rice, and green onion pancakes, also from a McLagan recipe. Big success.

For dessert: lemon tart out of Anne Mendelson's Milk. Like all her recipes, it was simple, elegant, and impeccable. A tart tart was definitely called for at the end of a pork belly dinner. Sorbet would have been even better, but I didn't have my thinking cap on.

*Warning: There's the chance that a Chinese butcher will give you the belly with skin attached, which is good, but also with nipples, which is disconcerting. This happened to me once and I won't say I didn't wince when it came time to carve everything up. But we need reminders of where food comes from, however macabre. 


  1. Once when I was young I was served in a basket of steamers some shrimp with their heads still on. That was off-putting, but I forced myself through it. It's too easy to ignore the fact that an animal died to give us meat, and though I think eating meat is good for us, I don't think we should be quite so cavalier about the process.

    That tart looks superb. Is there anything lemon can't do?

  2. hey, shrimp heads are okay. they just look like something out of a horror movie.
    but you know the old saying about how to eat crawfish: "pinch da tails, suck da heads"

  3. re: those pounds of meyers lemons... i use a juicer attachment for the kitchenAid mixer. pour lemon juice into ice cube trays and freeze for fresh lemon juice all summer (when they're out of season.)

    fabulous lemonade, of course, and to. die. for. margaritas....

    just put a few cubes of frozen meyer lemons, a quality tequila and some agave sweetener (if you don't want to splurge on cointreau) and blend. pour over ice cubes into frosty glasses rimmed with sea salt and i promise these will be the best margaritas you've tasted. low glycemic value too!

    they're even almost nutritious!

  4. Glad you liked the pork belly recipe, it is one of my favourites. I think you have to get over your squeamishness. We need to eat every part of the animal, pork skin is delicious and useful - nipples or no nipples!
    I am guessing you won't be trying my lamb testicle recipe! Thanks for cooking from my book and I am happy that it has been a mostly positive experience. Please try the Rhubarb King's Cake again.

  5. it's hard to call someone who serves pig ears to her family "squeamish."
    in fact, just about anybody who cooks from a book called "fat" (no offense) and buys five pounds of pork belly from a chinese market is probably immune from the squeamish charge.
    not to mention "milk."
    i'm the shrimp head booster, and even i have second thoughts about biting unexpectedly into a pig nipple.
    still, obviously you two agree on more than you disagree.

  6. Sounds like a challenge there, and I have little doubt that the intrepid (and, to my way of thinking, decidedly unsqeamish in food matters) Tipsy will rise to it. I was there for pigs ears salad and pork bellies and I will be there for lamb testicles.

  7. Squeamishness understood! Perhaps, to honor the animal one is killing, we should try to use every part in a good way. But I take exception to the idea that EATING every part is a good idea! A challenge maybe, but really only for a self-selected few!

    Now, lemon tart---that is a different matter! Definitely for the masses.