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Happy Bellies - Fennel Flavored Pork Belly

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at Chinese Pork Belly dumplings (next week, I think). But the store only had a larger belly, so I removed a pound for later and roasted the rest.

This is a pork belly that’s slow-roasted so the fat renders and cooks the belly confit-style in its own fat. It’s ridiculously juicy, impossibly tender yet still-sliceable meat, crowned with the most amazing crispy crackling of your life. Other methods I’ve used have taken two days, but this one is only 3 hours and with the best results I’ve ever had.

INGREDIENTS

4 lb pork belly with skin on *

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 tsp fennel powder**

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

METHOD

*Look for a belly that’s 1.5-1.75 inches thick, skin on, not too wrinkled. Getting one that is vacuum-packed won’t yield the best result because it’s been sitting in brine forever. Also, resist the urge to score the skin. It can really dry out the meat.

Place pork belly on a plate. Pat it dry with paper towels. Leave uncovered in fridge overnight to dry out the skin.

Preheat oven to 285.

Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds with the salt until fine. If you have a mortar and pestle, use this method - the fennel will make your kitchen smell wonderful.

On a sheet pan, place two large pieces of heavy-duty foil, and place the belly on it, skin side down.

Season flesh only by drizzling with 2 tsp oil. Sprinkle over 1/2 tsp salt, the pepper and fennel powder. Rub all over the flesh, including on the sides, being sure you get right into all the cracks and crevices. Turn the belly over.

Fold the sides of the foil in to enclose the belly, forming an open box, pinching corners to seal tightly and make it as snug as possible.

Pat skin dry with paper towels. Rub with 1/2 tsp oil then sprinkle remaining 1 tsp salt evenly all over the skin surface, from edge to edge.

Place in the oven and roast for 2 1/2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours, remove the pan from the oven and tighten the foil (pork will have shrunk), making sure the skin is protected.

Cook at the same temperature for one more hour.

Increase heat to 465.

Remove pork from foil and place on a rack set over a tray. Using a rack is best, but if you don’t have one, use some scrunched up balls of foil stuffed under pork to prop up so the skin surface is as level and horizontal as possible

Roast at this high heat for 15 minutes (make sure your exhaust fan is on), then turn it and roast for 15 more. The crackling should be deep golden, puffy and crispy all over.

Rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Some cooks serve this with a gravy, but I think it’s already rich enough. A light cole slaw or even some roasted stone fruit like peaches would be a good accompaniment. As would a nice dry German Reisling like Dr Thanisch Estate Riesling.

Happy belly on the plate. Happy belly in my chair.



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