Friday, February 11, 2011

Method #1 for roasted heritage Tamworth pork belly

First, I will get back to poultry-related subjects shortly; the past couple of weeks have been all about Tamworth pork. I've got a large cooler full of various cuts (shoulder, loin, leg, belly) curing here, and I'm helping Gabriel (chef at the Alder Wood Bistro) with the curing of prosciutto, pancetta, bacon, guanciale and Canadian bacon. I'm quite excited about this amazing pork, and now we are planning for a mid-winter barbecue here at the farm.

The other night, for the first time, I roasted a nice thick piece of skin-on pork belly. It was close to three inches thick, with a nice balance of fat to lean; the lean was a rich dark red. (The belly is the cut from which bacon is made.) As we do with all premium cuts of meat, I simply sprinkled it with a little Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper. I let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then into the oven at 400F, and I set the timer for 30 minutes. (Not having done this before I wasn't sure how long it would take, but I was aiming for an internal temperature of 150F.) I meant to roast it with the skin side up, but forgot until I checked the temperature after 30 minutes; then I turned it.

Altogether it took about 45 minutes to reach 150F. I let it rest in the pan for 5 or 10 minutes before we sliced it to serve. Two things I noticed that were a surprise to me: first, the skin seemed to dissolve into the fat just below the skin, and like the fat, literally melted in my mouth. Second, the fat on this pork did not seem greasy at all! I have heard that the diet of the pig directly affects the quality and taste of the fat, so I think we'll keep doing what we've done so far.

Roasted pork belly seems to be a "hot" menu item in restaurants these days, and I'd highly recommend that you try it when you have the chance. It's not always easy to find uncured pork belly that you can roast yourself, but you can try asking the butcher at your grocery store or co-op. It's worth the effort, in my opinion, to find really good-quality pork, though, which may not be available at your grocery store.

Have you tried roasted pork belly? If so, where did you have it? If you've bought and roasted your own, where did you get it and how did you cook it? I've heard of a slow-roasting method where the belly cooks for 5 hours or so, but I have yet to try that myself.

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