Showing posts with label pork belly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pork belly. Show all posts

Sunday, January 20, 2019

8-hour pork belly



I am a patient man.

When my friend Fredo announced one recent morning that he would be driving from New York to my home in Maine later in the day, I decided that there are worse things than having the oven working all day on a low-and-slow roast to feed him for dinner.



This is just under 5 pounds of pork belly, skin off. I've liberally seasoned the meat side with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then added chopped garlic, thyme and rosemary.



Layer the bottom of a fairly deep roasting pan with large hunks of celery, carrots and fennel, along with plenty of crushed garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme and rosemary.



Roll and tie the pork belly, place it over the vegetables and herbs, then add a generous amount of white wine and/or broth (I used nearly a bottle of chenin blanc and homemade chicken stock).

Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven pre-heated to 225 degrees F.



Every so often make sure to baste the belly. I did every half hour or so.

At around the 6-hour mark I removed the aluminum foil and turned the heat up to around 350 degrees F.



And after another couple hours (that's 8 total, if you're counting) this is what I wound up with.

Fredo had just arrived from his journey and so we enjoyed cocktails and then a first course while the pork belly rested a bit.

That was around the time that my friend shocked and delighted me by revealing the true nature of his visit. He had overheard me bemoaning the lack of my favorite morning baked good in the place that I live, and made it his duty to lend an assist.



These are some very fine New York bialys, and the very excellent friend who delivered them to me.

Grazie Fredo!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

How to make mortadella



I've waited a long time for this.

Every year that the entire crew gathers together at my house, for a weeklong visit between Christmas and New Year's, I say the same thing.

"How about we make us some mortadella this year?"

And, well... You are familiar with the expression "crickets," yes?

Tom always finds this an ideal time to shut his eyes and pretend to be asleep (even when standing upright and carrying a drink in his hand). Beth Queen of Bakers often rushes to check what's cooking in the oven, despite the oven's not even being in use. Scott and Giovani's iPhones suddenly turn silent and out of text range. My (long-suffering) Associate, ever the practical member of the group, simply ignores me altogether.

Not this time.

Weeks before our annual gathering this year I circulated the following missive:

Per my repeated (and, to date, scorned) appeals to enlist your assistance in the manufacture and distribution of an authentic Mortadella di Bologna, you are hereby informed that:

Your aid in this project is considered mandatory and non-negotiable.  

In other words, this is no longer a democracy. 

Deal with it.

Ever the consensus builder I provided my friends an authentic recipe with which to familiarize themselves, as well as a video based on that recipe.

The ingredients were awaiting their arrival. I allowed them a good night's sleep, but in the morning it was time to go to work.



Mortadella is, to put it simply, a giant cured pork sausage. Its main ingredients are lean pork (here we have two boneless pork loin roasts weighing in at a little over 3 1/2 pounds combined); 1 pound of pork belly; and 1/2 pound of pork back fat. (The complete list of ingredients is printed at the end.)



Grinding meat is always easier when it's ice cold, or even frozen. Cut all the meat into slices and place in the freezer for a good couple hours. At the same time start getting your grinding equipment as cold as possible. (I put the whole grinding attachment to our KitchenAid mixer in the freezer.)



Mix together 1/2 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of water and place in the freezer as well.



When the lean pork and pork belly are nearly frozen remove them from the freezer, cut them into cubes and mix together. DO NOT add the back fat at this time; it will be cut into cubes later on but it will not ever be ground.



While the meat is still ice cold run it through a large grinding plate for a coursely ground mixture and return the ground meat to the freezer. Put the grinding attachment back in the freezer too, as well as the smallest size grinding plate you've got, as you'll be needing it soon.

While the meat and grinder are chilling you can put together your spice mix. You'll need 3 tablespoons salt; 1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt); 2 teaspoons white pepper; 1/2 teaspoon coriander; 1 teaspoon garlic powder; 1 teaspoon anise; 1 teaspoon mace; and 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway. Make the spice mix as fine as possible. I ground everything together into a fine powder, using a spice grinder.



When the meat is nice and cold add the salt and spice mix and thorougly incorporate. (This being our first time making mortadella we fried up a tiny bit to taste and make sure that the seasoning was okay. It was perfect.)



Grind the meat again, using your smallest grinding plate this time.



At this point you'll need a food processor. Place the ground meat in the processor and add the semi-frozen wine/water mixture. Process the mixture until smooth. (You may need to do this in a couple batches; that's what we did.)



Here's where the half pound of back fat that's been chilling in the freezer comes into play. Cube it up like so.



Then quickly blanch it by pouring a little boiling water over it.



Also run boiling water over 1/2 cup pistachios and 3 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.



Add the blanched fat cubes, pistachios and peppercorns to the meat.



And thoroughly mix with your hands.



Get yourself an 8" x 11" plastic bag that's suitable for boiling and tie the sealed end with a cable tie; this will allow for a rounded shape to form.



Then stuff the bag with the meat mixture. (I did this by hand because the extruder attachment on the KitchenAid wasn't up to the task.)



Close the bag's open end with cable ties as well, then wrap the bag in buther's twine (this helps keep the shape intact while cooking). Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it rest for several hours or even overnight, as we did.



The traditional way to cook mortadella is slowly and in a water bath, with the oven set at around 170 degrees F. This is the method most people continue to use today. It will take around 7 or 8 hours before the mortadella reaches an internal temperature of 158 degrees F, the point at which it is fully cooked.

Due to the quick thinking of My Associate, we decided to take another path. A sous vide cooker resides in our kitchen, you see, and we couldn't think of a reason why we shouldn't use it. Set at 170 degrees F it took less than 5 hours to cook the mortadella this way.



No matter which cooking method you use, once the internal temperature reaches around 158 degrees F, remove the mortadella from the heat source and plunge it into ice-cold water to quickly cool it down.

Then comes the really hard part: Toss the still-wrapped mortadella in the fridge and forget about it for a couple days. I know how hard that'll be, but the flavors will develop over that time.

Since this was our first attempt we cut into the mortadella right away in order to test it, but then it went into the fridge for two days before we tasted it again. The difference was clearly noticeable.



Here's an outside view.



And the inside.

The flavor was spot on; everybody in the house was in agreement on this.

More important, the next time I suggest making mortadella to the crew, I won't be hearing any of those crickets again.

Of that I am pretty sure.


What you'll need
A meat grinder
A food processor
An 8" x 11" plastic bag suitable for boiling
Butcher's twine

The ingredients
3 1/2 pounds lean pork
1 pound pork belly
1/2 pound pork back fat

3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt)
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon anise
1 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway

1/2 cup chilled red wine
1/2 cup ice water

3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup whole pistachios (unsalted)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to make porchetta



I lost a lot of sleep over this porchetta. Literally.

It was the main course for a Labor Day lunch with some friends, you see. And since I'm a big proponent of the "low and slow" method of cooking, that meant getting to work really early.



There are a lot of ways to make porchetta, from the most traditional (a whole roasted pig that's stuffed with garlic and herbs) to the more modern (belly only) variations. I leaned closer to the traditional by using (l. to r.) a pork loin, a belly, and the skin. The loin gets wrapped by the belly which is wrapped by the skin. All told the entire thing weighed in at just under 7 1/2 pounds raw. (A note about the pork: Use the best you can get your hands on. This pork is from a small family farm around half and hour from my home. The hogs are raised naturally and even work the fields, as hogs do.)



There's no one way to season porchetta. I just went out to my garden and grabbed what I could get my hands on, then chopped everything up as finely as I could. There are leaves from my celery plants, fennel fronds, rosemary and thyme, plus an entire head of this year's garlic crop. In addition there's the zest of one large lemon.



Put everything in a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.



Lay the skin flat (outside down) and lightly cover with some of the herb mixture.



Then lay the belly over the skin.



Cover the belly with more of the herb mixture.



Then lay the loin on the edge of the belly. (My butcher butterflied the loin and also scored it so that the seasoning could be more evenly distributed.)



At this point spread the remaining herb mixture over the loin and start rolling. To roll the porchetta leave the skin laying flat and first roll the belly around the loin, starting from the loin side. Once you've done that then wrap the skin around the entire thing and tie.



Like so.

Once it's all tied up take a sharp knife and score the skin all over. Look closely and you can see all the cuts I've made throughout. You can now either start cooking right away or wait a while. (I let things marinate overnight.) When you are ready to cook place a rack in a deep oven pan and set the porchetta on top. Make sure it comes up to room temp before it goes into the oven.

As for what temperature to cook the thing at, well, "low and slow" is best. That's why I was up at 1:30 in the morning to take the meat out of the fridge, then again at 3:30 to turn on the oven, wait for it to come up to temp, and then put the porchetta in — at 225 degrees F.



Around seven and a half hours later (the last 15 minutes at 500 degrees F just to crisp the skin a little bit more) the porchetta was done. Don't cut it up right away, allow it to cool down. Honestly, I like it at room temp, which is how I served it yesterday.



Removing the skin makes things easier to slice—thin is best, I think—but if you get the skin to the right degree of crispiness it's a treat to eat.

Just one more piece of advice: Make this for dinner, not lunch.

You'll sleep a lot better. Believe me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to hijack a dinner party


It looks as though I planned this thing out some, right?

Wrong.

I was not on deck to cook this particular evening. Nor even do the provisioning. The only reason I had stepped foot inside the Rosemont Market on Brighton was to loiter in the wine department and collect a few bottles to go along with my friend Giovani's birthday dinner.

But then I just had to mosey over to the meat counter, just to say hi to Jarrod the butcher.


Next thing you know I had taken possession of all these beautiful specimens. And for no reason other than that I wanted them. There was a mixed pound of duck and sweet Italian sausage, a pound of pork belly, two giant fatty pork chops, half a pound of pork ribs, and a couple duck legs and thighs.

Hey, somebody had to go home with the things!


An hour or so later and I was in my kitchen, hoping that the comforting aroma of a soffritto simmering in the dutch oven might somehow soften the blow of my having hijacked the birthday meal — a blow no doubt felt by my associate, who had been charged with cooking it.

For the record, it did not soften the blow very much. If at all.


The soffritto, by the way, consisted of a leek, four carrots, a large onion, four garlic cloves lightly smashed but left whole, a tablespoon of fresh marjoram, two tablespoons of fresh rosemary, and four sage leaves. After the vegetables and herbs softened a bit, I started browning the meat in batches, as there was too much of it to do so at once.


After all the meats were browned, I removed them, tossed in two cups of white wine and reduced it pretty much all the way down.


Then the meats went back into the dutch oven. Some cannellini and borlotti beans had soaked overnight (for, ahem, another person's purposes, not my own) and so I threw a bunch of them in too, along with eight cups of freshly made chicken stock (also not made by, well, me).


After a good couple of hours in the oven (covered) this mess of meat and beans was ready to go. Except that I am a big believer in such dishes benefiting from a day's rest, and with the birthday dinner scheduled for the following day all was well with my plan.


So well that I was forgiven my indiscretion.

At least for the duration of the meal.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to make pancetta


I hope that you enjoy looking at pictures and captions. Because I have got an absolute ton of them for you here.

Making pancetta (basically Italian salt-cured bacon) at home is simple. It only takes a little bit of prep time; the rest of the time you are waiting for the meat to cure and then dry. I'm going to run through every one of the steps, if you don't mind.


In case you didn't know, pancetta (just as any bacon) is made from pork belly. You can certainly start out by using just a small slab of belly, but here we are making a big old mess of pancetta. What we have here is a whole belly, with the ribs still attached. It weighed in at about 14 pounds total. (Hey, I have people who have come to expect their allotment of every batch that I make.)


Here is the belly after the ribs have been cut away. You can see by the fold on the left that the skin is on (normally the case when you buy a whole belly), but it needs to be removed.


Once the skin is removed it's time to apply the cure. (Because I am always fiddling with the actual cure, I've decided to reprint the complete recipe and instructions for making pancetta from a reliable source, the book "Charcuterie," by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn; they are at the very end of this post.) This pic shows the cure already spread onto the fat side of one piece of the belly, but the other piece needs it too, as does the meat side of the belly. The reason I've cut the belly in half is because a whole one is too large to roll. If you were not going to roll it, then leaving the belly in one piece would be fine.


After applying the cure all around, place each piece in its own big plastic bag and put into the fridge. They stay in the fridge for at least a week, often longer. And I flip the pieces over once a day. This batch was in the fridge for 11 days.


The next step is to run the belly under cool water and clean off all the cure mixture, then dry it well using paper towels. Once it's clean and dry you put down a good dose of coarse black pepper on the meat side of the belly. Then you roll it nice and tight, the tighter the better actually, to prepare it for tying.


Once it's rolled and tied it's time to hang it in a cool place for at least two weeks.


So that we could also see an example of the slab type of pancetta I didn't roll the other half of the belly. When you do it this way, though, it's good to wrap the belly in cheesecloth before hanging it. The flat, slab-like pancetta hangs in a cool place, just like the rolled, but it's ready quicker.


This one was ready in about 10 days.


Nice, huh? I like this batch a lot. The flavors are both rich and mild at the same time.


Here is the rolled pancetta, ready to be cut down and used. It hung in the garage for about 23 days.


I usually slice rolled pancetta into pieces around an inch thick.


Then I vacuum pack each piece individually. The ones that I don't give away to my demanding family and friends go into the freezer, as the pancetta lasts longer that way.

The only trouble is that I do not get to keep that many of the pieces for myself.

Maybe I should just shut my big mouth the next time a new batch of the stuff is ready.


Pancetta

Recipe

From “Charcuterie”

by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn


This is for a 5-pound piece of pork belly, skin removed

For the dry cure

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons pink salt (see Note below)

1/4 cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 tablespoons juniper berries, crushed with the bottom of a small saute pan

4 bay leaves, crumbled

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme


Directions

1. Trim the belly so that its edges are neat and square.

2. Combine the garlic, pink salt, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme, and half the black pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly so that the pink salt is evenly distributed. Rub the mixture all over the belly to give it a uniform coating over the entire surface.

3. Place the belly in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag or in a covered nonreactive container just large enough to hold it. Refrigerate for 7 days. Without removing the belly from the bag, rub the belly to redistribute the seasonings and flip it over every other day (a process called overhauling).

4. After 7 days, check the belly for firmness. If it feels firm at its thickest point, it's cured. If it still feels squishy, refrigerate it on the cure for 1 to 2 more days.

5. Remove the belly from the bag or container, rinse it thoroughly under cold water, and pat it dry. Sprinkle the meat side with the remaining black pepper. Starting from a long side, roll up the pork belly tightly, as you would a thick towel, and tie it very tightly with butcher's string at 1- to 2-inch intervals. It's important that there are no air pockets inside the roll. In other words, it can't be too tightly rolled. Alternately, the pancetta can be left flat, wrapped in cheesecloth, and hung to dry for 5 to 7 days.

6. Using the string to suspend it, hang the rolled pancetta in a cool, humid place to dry for 2 weeks. The ideal conditions are 50°F to 60°F (8°C to 15°C) with 60 percent humidity, but a cool, humid basement works fine, as will most any place that's out of the sun. Humidity is important: If your pancetta begins to get hard, it's drying out and should be wrapped and refrigerated. The pancetta should be firm but pliable, not hard. Because pancetta isn't meant to be eaten raw, the drying isn't as critical a stage as it is for items such as prosciutto or dry-cured sausages. But drying pancetta enhances its texture, intensifies its flavor, and helps it to last longer.

7. After drying, the pancetta can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 3 weeks or more, or frozen for up to 4 months. Freezing makes it easier to slice thin.

Note: Pink salt, a curing salt with nitrite, is called by different names and sold under various brand names, such as tinted cure mix or T.C.M., DQ Curing Salt, and Insta Cure #1. The nitrite in curing salts does a few special things to meat: It changes the flavor, preserves the meat's red color, prevents fats from developing rancid flavors, and prevents many bacteria from growing.
 
countercounter