The Pork Belly Fiasco… time to tell the story

The Pork Belly Fiasco… time to tell the story

Okay meat eaters… fess up… how much do you love a good pork belly? And I mean emphasis on the ‘good’ right? If you like pork belly you’ll have no doubt noticed its proliferation on menus near and far. I have had some spectacular examples of this delicious dish (namely at Lynn’s Blue Olive [sadly no longer open], One on La Balsa [I fluked the lunch special there one day – it isn’t on the main menu sadly], in an amazing Thai red curry sauce at Cookie, and again in a great Thai dish at Coca Chu on Hamilton Island [although it looks to no longer be on the menu].)  Sadly I think I’ve had more bad ones… and I won’t name and shame although I feel it is almost my moral duty to do so! So it is something I took upon myself to find a good recipe for and learn to cook well.

I was given a recipe from a friend who said she’d tried it and it was fabulous… I just looked for it online and it seems to have come from Best Recipes. I tried it and wow – yes – amazing. I have made a couple of amendments though and this is my version:

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

  • 1 kg pork belly whole
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 6 star anise
  • 2 onion peeled sliced
  • 2 cups water

Preaheat the oven to 250C. Fill the kettle and boil it. Score the rind with a very sharp knife and when the kettle is boiled hold the pork above the sink with a fork in one end and pour the boiling water over the rind. Change ends and repeat. Pat dry with paper towel and then rub the olive oil and salt into the rind.

Place the star anise and onions under a wire rack in your roasting tray. Put the pork on the rack and put into the preheated oven for 30 min. After this time, leave the pork in the oven but reduce the temperature to 150C and slow cook for two hours. Don’t baste the pork during cooking.

Remove from oven and wrap in foil to rest. Get started on the sauce.

Sauce

  • Pan juices
  • Pan star anise
  • Pan onions
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 strips orange rind
  • 1 cup chicken stock (liquid)
  • 1 orange juiced

Put the pan juices, star anise, pan onion, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick and orange rind in a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and orange juice. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the sauce reduces and thickens enough to serve. Tip… if this is taking forever put a bit of cornflour and water (premixed) into the sauce to help thicken.

About an hour and a half before it is time to eat, preheat the oven again to 160C and cook the pork for 60 min, turn the heat up to 220C for the last 15-20 min or until the crackling is nice and crisp… I have found this in itself can take 30-40 min. Keep an eye on it. Sometimes I’ve cut the rind off, wrapped the pork so it stays moist and put the rind back in the oven to finish off.

When I first started dating my husband almost three years ago, this is what I cooked him. I like to believe it was love at first bite haha! So when we had some very very dear family friends visiting here (Sunshine Coast Australia) from the USA and coming over for dinner I knew it had to be my dish d’jour.

The day arrived and I had all the ingredients on hand except the pork itself, we were making a trip to Costco for that as I’d seen large ones (6 adults to feed) there. We went, picked it up, put it in the trolley and problem number one – there was no rind on it. Like none. On any of them in the whole store. It had been deliberately removed. WHAT?! Who does that?! The rind aka crackling is the reason we eat pork right?! Oh well – we had to push on and luckily I knew that I could buy rind at my local Coles so all good – a bit inconvenient but all good.

We got home and the cook began. I am in my happy place when I’m preparing food for people I love and this was most definitely the case here. The pork went in the oven for the first cook and even though it had no rind I ended up turning up the heat for the last 1/2 hour and crisped up the uppermost layer of fat (yes, the reality of that is gross but it is what it is). When the pork came out to rest I gathered the delicious star anise and onions from the baking pan, the pan juices and added the orange peel, cinnamon, stock, orange juice and red wine vinegar to make the amazing sauce. Time to boil and reduce.

Sauce stage two
Sauce starting to take shape, with the peel, orange juice, red wine vinegar and cinnamon sticks added.
Sauce - the beginning
The onions, pan juices and star anise, ready to cook into the sauce.

Before long the house was filled with the amazing aromas…

Our guests arrived for a tour of our home and property and for some pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. Before we went out to do this I turned the simmering sauce (still reducing) down to low. About 20-30 min later my dad went into the house to get the bread that had been reheating in the oven. When he returned I asked if he happened to check the sauce at all… ‘um… no’ was the reply.

A minute or two after that my husband went back into the house (note… the drinks/nibbles were being held at the top of the hill of our 1/2 acre property to take in the glorious sunset views – we were a fair distance from the house). When he came back his face said it all. There had been a disaster.

A glorious sunset from the top of our hill.
A glorious sunset from the top of our hill.

Apparently when he got down there the whole house was full of smoke and my beautiful sauce was nothing but charred remains which were possibly now a permanent fixture in my saucepan. Yep – disaster.

Of course that pretty much signalled the end of drinks and we all went down the hill and inside to see what had happened. Sure enough, we had to open all the windows and doors to get the smoke out and the pot… omg. This pic was taken the next day after my husband had chiselled away at a bit…

The charred sauce
Yikes…

We had to get the pork into the Webber for the second cook – so that happened and then I set to work on ‘Sauce 2.0’… It didn’t have any of the delicious pan delights but I have to say, in the end, it did the trick and when the pork belly came out of the Webber an hour later it was succulent, full of flavour and the sauce was a beautiful accompaniment.

The pork straight out of the Webber.
The pork straight out of the Webber.
Yum! So moist and juicy.
Yum! So moist and juicy.

I served the pork sliced thinly with a sweet potato mash and some greens (heat some olive oil in a high-sided saucepan, add some chopped leeks, toss for a minute or two, add some spinach leaves (200g) and some cooked peas (200g) and cook until the spinach is wilted and all combined.

So all’s well that ends well right…? Sauce 2.0 was a hit, the pork was delish, the sides were great too and the company divine. So if it all goes to pot (literally!) then just have another glass of wine and improvise!

Dinner... yum
Okay so this dish didn’t really photograph all that well – keep in mind I’d had Sauce Disaster and was by now somewhat tipsy… it is a wonder there is any pic at all!

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