Braised Pork Belly Tacos for the Ill-Prepared Chef

Hurricane Irene. You were such a tease. Not that anyone hoped for a catastrophe, but when people spend their Saturday morning stocking up on Smartfood popcorn and every last Jesus candle in the local bodega, I expect at the very least a brief power outage during my scary movie marathon made possible by my panic driven new Blockbuster membership.

I learned many things during this weekend’s false-alarm lockdown, first and foremost being that I need to read recipe directions before committing to a new meal. I am way too easily swayed by pretty pictures and tasty titles.

Al and I paced the aisles of Fine Fare (my new favorite grocery store) on Saturday trying to choose the perfect provisions. I browsed my Evernote recipe clippings for inspiration and came across an old gem from food52 for braised pork belly tacos. Let’s do it. We’re locked up for the weekend, why not try something new and challenging?

Naively we expected this to be our Saturday meal. Little did we know, the first step calls for 6-7 hour braising. Starting at 5pm would have us eating dinner at 11pm earliest. Oh what? Step 10 calls for 3 more hours in the oven? Cool. The entire meal should be cooked in a Dutch oven? Which I don’t have unless you count Big Al trying to wake me up after a weekend bender? This was almost as bad as my Valentine’s day fish and chips disaster. (Some other time.)

The art of cooking is all about interpretation and personalization. We decided to shift our timeline to a Sunday night dinner and use a tightly sealed pan instead of a Dutch oven.

At midnight, we started the (~11 hour) process which was as follows:

Ingredients –
2 pounds pork belly
5 cups water
3/4 cups honey
1.5 tablespoons pepper
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup salt
3 tablespoons allspice
4 chopped scallions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of jalapeño, minced
2 cups orange juice
1 cup chicken stock
Small tortillas

Instructions –

1. Rinse the pork and pat dry

2. BRINE – In a small pot, add the water, honey, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and mix. Remove brine from heat and cool completely
3. Place pork and brine in a bowl. Refrigerate for 6-7 hours. (Longer than 7 hours = super salty pork)

4. Remove pork from brine. Pat try and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes
5. Heat oven to 325 degrees
6. Cut pork belly into 1” wide strips. Season strips with allspice, salt & pepper

7. Put pork belly into a big pot with a top (or something enclosed that can go into the oven) and place in oven for 15 minutes
8. Remove pot from oven and sautee pork on medium heat until golden. Once pork is browned, remove pot from heat. If there is an excessive amount of fat at this point, remove all but 2-3 tbsp

9. Add the scallions, jalapeño and garlic to the pot and saute with pork for 5 minutes
10. Add the orange juice and chicken sauce to pot. Place in oven for about 3 hours
11. Remove pot from oven. Shred (most of the) fat from meat

12. Get out the tortillas and add your fixins. We added sour cream, salsa and pickled jalapeños

The first bite made us forget all about the stand-by tuna ready to be tagged in should there have been a pork disaster. We enjoyed a very rewarding, tender and juicy dinner and even jarred the juice from the pot (the slow cooked pork fat and seasonings will make a delicious gravy). Sweet, sweet victory. Dutch oven recipes can bite me.

*Note: We opted for a standard jar of medium salsa instead of the watermelon salsa in the original recipe. You’ll notice when comparing mine to the original recipe that we altered the ingredients and process to fit what we had/felt like following.

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