Pork Belly with Ginger, Honey, and Soy
From Chef Thierry’s cookbook Rover’s Recipes from Seattle’s Chef in the Hat. Co-authored with Cynthia Nims. This original recipe is served along side a Cannellini bean salad, but you can use this pork belly in sandwiches, over polenta or with a simple green salad.
1 pork belly piece (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
¼ pound young, tender ginger, finely grated
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 bay leaves, preferably fresh, partly torn
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups honey, preferably wildflower
2 cups top-quality soy sauce (shoyu or tamari)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
Chopped fresh chives
If the pork belly still has the skin on, carefully trim it away. Heat a heavy deep skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Put the pork belly in the skillet, fat-side down, and sear until browned and the fat begins to render, about 5 minutes; turn the pork a few times, but spend more time on the fat side than on the meaty side. Transfer the pork belly to a plate and set aside. Pour off the fat from the skillet (you can keep it for cooking the aromatics if you wish) and set the skillet aside (no need to clean it).
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved pork fat, if using (or the olive oil), in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and bay leaves and season generously with pepper. Cook, stirring often, until quite aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the honey and soy sauce and stir to help the honey dissolve. Return the pork belly to the skillet and pour the soy-honey mixture over. Bring the liquid just to a low boil over medium-high heat, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake the pork belly, basting it occasionally with the pan liquid, until it is very tender, about 2 ½ hours, turning the belly over after 1 hour. The liquid should not boil; decrease the oven temperature to 225°F if necessary.
When the pork belly is tender, take the skillet from the oven and transfer the pork belly to a cutting board; cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl, measure out 1 cup and put in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat (save the remaining cooking liquid for another use, if you like). Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by one-third, 5 to 7 minutes. (Taste the liquid as it reduces, because less reduction time may be needed, given the robust flavors of the ingredients. Over reducing can create flavors that are too strong.) Add the butter and whisk so it melts creamily into the sauce; keep warm over very low heat.
Cut the pork belly on the diagonal into slices about ¼ inch thick. Spoon the sauce around the pork belly and garnish with the chopped chives.
Thierry Rautureau, The Chef In The Hat™, Rover’s Cookbook © 2005