Sunday, June 14, 2009

Speaking of pork, summer is in full swing here in San Francisco and the foggy days are warmer than usual and cut through by the occasional sunbeam. That means that the garden I planted so long ago (March) is bearing its glorious fruit. The perpetual damp and cruel wind that we sometimes get here on the south side of Bernal Hill makes it very difficult to grow eggplant, corn, decent tomatoes, or squash, but cool season crops like beats, runner beans, peas, carrots, lettuce and onions have been star performers. The following recipe prominently features our midsummer bounty and a nice bit of briny pork from the freezer.

Roast Pork belly with hyper-local vegetables.
(A hybrid between recipes from Cook with Jaime and Nose to Tail Eating.)

What's Guerrilla:
Pork belly is a cheap, rustic cut of pork (a little goes a long way) and the simply prepared vegetables were free!
What's Gourmet: With gentle treatment, pork belly melts into a delicious, giving roast with crisp crackling on top. And fresh, seasonal, hyper-local eating is all the rage now, right? Materials and method follow the jump.



Materials:
-A good chunk of pork belly (the full belly is several pounds, but I more commonly see it in one-to-two-pound pieces) brined for several days.
-Enough sliced onion to create an allium cushion underneath your belly.
-Assorted root vegetables (I used Russian Banana potatoes, Early Wonder beets, and Royal Chantenay carrots, and yellow onions from the back yard).
-A handful of woody herbs (I used thyme and rosemary from the yard).
-A splash of Olive Oil (not from the yard).
-Salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed.
-Half a can of beer.
-A roasting pan or cast iron skillet that can hold everything comfortably.

Method:
1) Kick your broiler up to full blast and set the rack six inches or so under it.
2) Pull the belly from the brine, rinse any excess salt, and pat it dry. Then make small slashes in the top that just break the skin (some books call for a razor blade or carpet knife) a quarter inch apart. Smear the skin lightly with oil and work some salt, pepper, and fennel into the cracks.
3) Slice the onions thinly, and place them in the bottom of the pan. Sit the belly on top and make sure all of the onions are tucked underneath. If they aren't protected under the broiler, they'll burn.
4) When the broiler is pre-heated, put the roasting pan under the broiler. Check it every two minutes until the skin starts to bubble, then turn the oven down to 325 and pour some beer in the bottom of the pan. Let the belly roast for an hour or more (depending on the size) while you prep your vegetables.
5) Boil (in salted water) the potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes and the beets for 20. In theory, you can boil everything together, but if you do everything separately the colors won't bleed. Let the carrots and beets cool, then slip of the skins and cut them into rough chunks. The potatoes can stay whole.
6) When the belly is giving, arrange the vegetables around the pan, splash with olive oil, and pop back into the oven for half an hour.
7) Pull the pan out and let the meat rest for ten minutes. Mix the vegetables together (the onion and beer will by now almost be gravy). I like to remove the crackling (the crispy skin) and break it into pieces, then serve it separate from the sliced meat. Serve with a healthy dollop of mustard and sauteed beet greens on the side!

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