8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On 6:18 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine   No comments
Not really bacon, and not really eggs. This was supposed to be Braised Pork Belly Over Egg Noodles. Get it? Pork belly is the part of the pig used for bacon, and the egg...

Unfortunately, I made a litany of mistakes, and the result wasn't very good.

It was marinated overnight in pomegranate and orange juices, with onions, garlic and spices (adobo and a few additional spices.)

The meat on the pork belly is in three distinct layers. There is the bottom layer of meat, then a layer of fat, then a second layer of meat, then a second layer of fat, the top layer of meat, another layer of fat, and finally, the skin. My first mistake was that I over-browned the skin. The first step in a braise is to sear the meat, but I went too far on the skin side. Next was the critical mistake. I was supposed to start the braise skin side down, covered, for the first two hours. I went to turn the meat at the appointed time, and I had put it in skin side up.

I then had to decide what to do next, and I made a bad decision. What I should have done is turn the meat so it was skin side down for a couple of hours, then finish it skin side up in a hot oven to just crisp the skin. Instead, I did not turn it. I just uncovered it and let it finish cooking.

Anyway, the top was both overcooked and rubbery, not crisp. The bottom layer of meat, which was in contact with the pan the whole time, was dried out. The marinade, which became the braising liquid, was over-concentrated, too strongly flavored and too heavy for the noodles. I couldn't even force it through a strainer. I could have used a food mill or an immersion blender, but as strong as it was, the last thing I wanted to do was blend in all those onions and garlic.

I learned a few lessons. First, follow directions. It may not have been perfect, but it would have been a lot better if I had. I also learned that you can dry out the meat in a braise. You can't leave unprotected meat (there was no fat or skin beneath the lowest layer of meat) either up and uncovered or down in contact with the pan for too long. Next, you can't let the braising liquid get too thick, or you end up without a sauce. You can always add liquid during cooking, but it doesn't taste the same if you try to thin it at the end. Finally, in a step I haven't mentioned so far, when cooking pork belly, there is so much fat rendered that you have to refrigerate it overnight so you can skim the solidified fat. They tell you to just cover the whole thing and chill. Next time, I'll wrap the meat and the gravy separately. The gravy will go into a taller, narrower container, so that I will have a thicker layer of fat to take off. This way, there was a thin (but not too thin) layer of fat over the whole pan that was hard to skim.

The wine was excellent - Bernard Ange Crozes Hermitage. It's 100% Syrah from the Northern Rhone. It had great black plum and blackberry fruit with great acidity. It's a puzzlement why more producers can't harness all that great fruit and yet make a lively wine. This one was peppery and bright, and I'll be happy to drink it again.



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