I bought a 4 lb pork belly a few weeks ago and am trying to figure out just what to do with this thing. The one thing I want to try is making home-made bacon. Most recipes require some sort of smoker (a cold smoker? I don't even know what it is), which I don't have. I do have a Weber grill (charcoal) though... Has anyone made home-made bacon on a plain grill?
As to making a non-bacon dish out of the belly, I'd prefer to do something that makes it crispy, but most preparations I see involve braising it. Does anyone have any experience with pork belly that they can share regarding different types of preparations and what the pros/cons of them are?
Use the Cantonese method for roasting a pig. Some restaurants now use only the belly part, as that's considered the prime cut. You need to poke holes in the skin and abrade it. Then add a dry rub and make sure that the surface is very dry. The skin will get bubbly and very crispy when you roast it.
You can make bacon without smoking it. Michael Ruhlman' s recipe in Charcuterie is quite good. Easy Easy Easy. Simply cure the pork and if you can not smoke it, slow roast it. Chill, wrap and store. Slice it and cook it when you need it.
I really like the Frugal Gourmet's recipe in his Three Ancient Cuisines. Super simple and delicious.
Here's an update on my experimentation with the pork belly mentioned in the OP.
My efforts at roasting it (uncured) over charcoal - I roasted a little over half over indirect medium-high heat - did result in two interesting, good pieces of belly. These two pieces were the outsides. The inside was just too fatty, however; and this is coming from someone who, before this, didn't think there was such a thing as "too much pork fat." Still not bad, but fatty.
So I took the leftovers from that experiment and chopped it up and put it in a stir-fry. I now understand why it's often used in such dishes. A lot of the fat cooks off, leaving less fatty, more meaty pieces, and adding delicious fat to the vegetables (and presumably broth or whatever else you cook it in).
I then took the remaining 1.5+ pounds and home-cured it according to the recipe in Charcuterie (no sodium nitrites, though, I couldn't find them locally and refused to pay $7 to ship a package that costs $1). Smoked it very slowly on my Weber kettle, though, as opposed to doing it in the oven at 200 degrees. Brushed it with NH maple syrup during the smoking. Now this effort was a rousing success. It was really amazing how good it tasted - not up to the bacon at Peter Luger's in NY, but really good. And it really wasn't hard.
I can't wait to get some more belly - I think I'll just make more bacon next time!
i absolutely went bananas over ruhlman & polcyn's bacon recipe. i don't have a smoker either, nor a grill. but i do have an oven and managed to produce the most extraordinary homemade bacon. carbonaras and amatricianas are like a new world. the BLT is mindblowing.
i flavored it with bay leaves, black peppercorns, and garlic, but i'm going to try the maple cure next.
i wrote extensively about my bacon experience on my blog.
Rick Stein had a simple recipe in a recent Food Heroes program:
He seasoned the underneath with a spicy rub. Left the top layer of fat untouched.
He then put pork in the roasting pan fat side up, into the oven, and placed a bain marie on the oven rack below. The theory is that the fat on top gets cracklin' and the meat underneath steams. It looked absolutely fabulous when he took it fro the oven! Sliced it into medium squares- you could hear the crunch as the knife when through the crust - and served it with bok choy.