Pork bellies are just what you would expect them to be. They are the soft, fatty portion of the pig’s belly. They are full of flavor, but it not the healthiest cut of meat to eat because it is, again, as you would expect, 90% fat and only about 10% protein. It is NOT my favorite cut of meat for those very reasons, but we had some in the freezer that needed to be used. Pork bellies are similar to bacon, or bacoun as it used to be known in Europe. Up until the mid 16th century, all pork was known as bacoun or bacon. The bellies are usually uncured and unsalted, whereas bacon is almost always salted and cured. Though pork bellies are eaten and enjoyed in most parts of the world, they are really favored in the Hispanic, Chinese, Korean and Philippine cultures.
Because pork bellies are very popular in both the Spanish world and the Asian world, it only makes sense that the recipe I chose to make was a Spanish/Asian fusion.
Vanilla-Orange Spiced Roasted Pork Belly
3 lb slab of pork belly, preferably unsliced
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3-4 TBSP orange juice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sage
1 tsp Chinese 5 spices
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
2 TBSP butter
Mix all the ingredients together well and thoroughly coat the pork belly with the mixture. Score the the meat with a sharp serrated knife. If you are using pork belly that has already been sliced, no need to score the meat.
I did not really pay much attention to the package before opening it, but once I did, I found out my pork belly was already sliced. Oh well. Live and learn. We have one more package of pork belly in the freezer, and I think that is sliced as well. Another great use for this is to wrap it around other meats for roasting. Wrapping other meats with this fatty meat will help add moisture and flavor to meats while roasting them.
Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before cooking.
In a hot skillet, add the butter and olive oil and then sear all sides of the meat, about 7-10 minutes per side.
Preheat the oven to 325* F or 165* C.
Place the meat in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Reserve most of the sauce for later. The cooking times will vary greatly depending on whether or not you are using a pre-sliced slab or an uncut slab of pork. Roast for about 30 minutes is using pre-sliced pork and for about 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165* F, if using uncut pork.
Heat the remaining sauce in a saucepan by bringing it to a boil then reducing it to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
When the pork is done, serve it with your favorite side dishes and top with the sauce. I served it with some green beans and rice with brown butter pecans, along side some warmed bread and a dry white chardonnay. You want a dry white wine to accent the spiciness of the sauce. Enjoy! Desfruitas!