Braised Pork Belly by Chef Terry Pichor at Sonora Resort
Pork belly. It’s hard to go wrong… or is it? It’s hard to go wrong because it’s delicious, but it’s also easy to go wrong because it’s not exactly the simplest thing to cook. Sure, you could let it stew on low heat over a long period of time until the fat renders and the meat becomes tender, but it doesn’t always work out.
Pork belly is a very fatty and tough cut of pork, but with the right attention and execution it’s incredible. I prefer to have a more equal fat and meat ratio, or even more meat, but inevitably there will be fat. It’s pork belly! Of course there will be fat. The fat gives it flavour and makes it good, but they key is not to have an overwhelming amount of fat. This part isn’t really up to you though. You could always trim it, but start at the ingredient. Source the right product.
Not all pork bellies are created equal, however if you shop for a local BC or Alberta pork the pork belly tends to be less fatty than the generic brands from who knows where.
Our local pork producers pay attention to the diets of the pigs and control the amount of fat they have. They understand that consumers and local palates usually appreciate a more balanced ratio of fat and meat when it comes to pork belly.
I first tried this dish at Cornucopia – Whistler’s premier food and drink festival. It’s an annual event featuring a series of food and wine related events perfect for culinary enthusiasts and industry players.
One of the ticketed events I attended was the Chef’s Table Luncheon: Chef Terry Pichor and The Sonora Resort. The event took place in a beautiful luxury home in Whistler, BC and guests were served a plated 5 course meal paired with Painted Rock estate winery wines from BC.
This pork belly course was one of the favourite dishes so I had to ask for the recipe.
Chef Pichor gave the pork belly an onion black pepper crust and served it with a coco bean cassoulet, porcini mushrooms, winter squash, and apricot jus.
The recipe can get quite complicated, so for ease this is only the recipe for the pork belly. It’s a solid recipe and the condiments, sides and components can vary according to season and taste.
Braised Pork Belly
By Executive Chef Terry Pichor, Sonora Resort
Braised Pork Belly
4-pound piece of pork belly (skin on)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 leek, rinsed and halved lengthwise
31⁄4 quarts chicken stock
1 cup salt
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seed
8 to 10 pieces of star anise
6 sprigs thyme
1 orange, peeled with a vegetable peeler
TO CURE DAY 1
Combine all of the ingredients in the cure and toss together so they are evenly mixed. Place half of the cure on a baking sheet and spread out the mixture evenly to about the same size as the pork belly. Place the pork belly on top of the cure and cover with the other half of the cure. Make sure the cure is evenly spread on the top and the bottom. Transfer to the refrigerator and let sit overnight.
The next day, remove the pork belly from the cure and rinse under cold water to remove any salt and spices from the exterior of the meat. Dry very well on paper towels. Preheat the oven to 280 ̊F. Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the grapeseed oil and carefully place the cured pork belly in the pan skin side down. Press with the back of a spatula so that the pork belly has even contact with the pan. Brown on the skin side for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip over and sear the meat side for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the vegetables to the hot pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly caramelized. Deglaze with the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Place the pork belly in an ovenproof container. Pour the stock and vegetables over the pork and cover the container with a piece of aluminum foil. Place in the oven and cook for 4 to 5 hours, until tender. Let cool overnight in the liquid.
The next day, remove the pork from the liquid and cut the pork belly into portions 2 inches long by 1 inch wide, or any size that is desired. The portioned pork belly can be used right away or frozen for a later use. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and reduce by 75 percent, until it is thick and syrupy. Store in small containers in the freezer for later use. Makes at least 8 to 10 portions.