Crispy pork belly

Pork belly, in various forms, has become very popular.  Many restaurants like to emphasize the soft unctuous pork fat resulting from a very long slow braise, or confit preparation.  While I love the flavor….I like to have an almost crispy texture of the meat to go along with the flavor of the fat.  In my mind the butternut squash makes a perfect counterpoint.

To be honest, the Brussels sprouts leaves were just to get some bright color on the plate, and the first time I made it I had Brussels sprouts on hand.  Ultimately, I think they work and look better than greens, though you could use a bitter green like arugula.  To dress the pork, I made a slightly spicy maple bourbon glaze.

 

For the pork belly

One 2 – 3 pound pork belly, skin removed

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup salt

2 teaspoons white pepper

 

For the butternut squash puree

1 half butternut squash (cut lengthwise), cleaned and seeded

Olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon white pepper

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

salt to taste

 

For maple bourbon glaze

½ cup apple cider

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ bourbon

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon red chili pepper

A pinch of salt and pepper

 

For Brussels sprouts

4 – 5 large Brussels sprouts, cleaned and scored with a knife on the bottom

 

1.     For the pork, mix together the salt, sugar and white pepper, and rub all over the pork belly.  Wrap in a zip bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2.    Heat an oven to 400F; remove the pork belly, rinse and pat dry;  place in a small roasting dish fat side up and roast for 30 minutes; lower the oven to 300F, baste the pork belly with the fat in the pan, and roast an additional 2 hours.  The pork will be done when you can easily pierce it with a fork.  Remove, let cool, then tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3.    For the squash, lightly oil the flesh side, set flesh side down in a roasting tray and roast in a 375F oven until the flesh is soft, about 30 minutes.

4.    Using a spoon, scrape the soft flesh into a small saucepan.  Add the butter, cream, pepper and nutmeg and mix.  For a rustic feel, just mashing and mixing with a fork will suffice.  If you want a finer puree, use a stick blender.  Season to taste with salt.

5.    For the maple bourbon glaze, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer over medium low heat until reduced and thickened.

6.    For the Brussels sprouts, blanch the sprouts in a small pot of boiling salted water, about three minutes.  Remove and plunge into an ice bath.  When cool enough to handle, cut the stem end and remove individual large leaves.

7.    To prepare the dish, slice the pork belly into half inch thick slices.  Cook in a skillet over medium high heat until just browned on both sides.

8.    Spoon a small amount of butternut squash puree in the middle of the serving plate, and lay two slices pork belly on top.  Garnish with Brussels sprouts leaves, then drizzle with the maple bourbon glaze.