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pork belly help

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Took my lunch bunch to a fairly new restaurant in San Antonio, Tx and there on the menu
was "pork belly". Since my working career was in the commodities market, I had to try it.
Most delicious thing ever to go into my pie hole. Now, I MUST make it at home. Where
do I start? Do you just order it from your butcher (providing you have one that will speak to
you)? Is it better to order on line? How do you prepare it? I think the piece I had ( about a
2x3-inch square on soft polenta) was braised, the run under the salamander for a slight
crisp up on the top. What to do with the balance of the belly? I assume I'll have to order it
whole. Can I freeze it? That was probably the "richest" lunch I've had in a decade, so this
is not something that can be eaten every day. But man-o-man would I ever like to have it
once a month!!

Will be most grateful for any and all help. Thanks ' hounds.

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  1. Yes, braising is how pork belly is usually cooked (if you don't count bacon, pancetta and such). It's fairly easy to find here in San Francisco at Asian markets. In San Antonio I would try Mexican markets or carnicerias. But first I would call the restaurant and ask them where they get theirs.

    You can cut it up and freeze it just like any other piece of pork. It usually comes with the skin on, although the restaurant may have removed it. Try leaving it on. It won't change the taste, and you can eat around it if you don't like the texture.

    1. Any good butcher should have it, but it is more of a specialty item so you may have to call around to a few to make sure they have it. I've purchased it in smaller than whole quantities, 3/4/5 pounds... the butcher should not have a problem cutting it up. I assume you could freeze it, but I have never done this.

      As per zeldog, it is often braised and then seared but there are many ways to cook it. The best pork belly I have ever had was skewered and barbecued at at Japanese Yakitori restaurant (although it may have been the sake), so you might consider cooking it two ways.

      http://www.seattlepi.com/food/304389_...
      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
      http://forums.chef2chef.net/viewtopic...

      1. i buy mine in asian markets, usually in packages of a bit over 1 pound. i dry rub it overnight. then place on top halved onions, fat side on top, and cook in a dutch oven at 300 for a few hours. a slow roast rather than a braise. to serve i run the pieces under the broiler to crisp the fat.

        however, for thanksgiving, i made ruhlman's deep fried pork belly confit and it was out of this world.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          this sounds AMAZING! must try soon

        2. Any good old-fashioned butcher can get it, and as hotoynoodle says, it's amazing deep fried, in pretty much any fashion. After all, it's just the cut used for bacon.

          The piece you had sounds as if it was slow-roasted after an initial very high-heat spell to crisp up the top. If it was crunchy up there, it wasn't all braised, and if you don't start out with the high heat to crisp the skin, you end up with literal leather.

          This recipe is absolutely great:

          http://cookalmostanything.blogspot.co...

          I don't find the spices and herbs really do much to the final product, frankly, but the technique is spot-on here.

          A note: Your knife must be RAZOR sharp to score the skin -- and even then, it's not easy. If your butcher will do it for you, all the better.

          Make sure to keep your portions in the 3-oz range. More isn't better with this cut, in my opinion.

          1. When you talk to your butcher ask about side meat. As the name implies, it's from the sides of the pig, just above the belly. It's about the same thickness as belly, but leaner. It's an excellent alternative to belly for most recipes. Usually comes with skin on, just like belly.

            1. From last year:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564144

              The one kind reply I received appeared to be commenting on an idea or theory. No. I did it, and it worked. Beautifully.

              1. I agree with Zeldog regarding the side meat. I always have known it as fresh side. I am in south Florida and all of the spanish groceries carry the pork belly. I just wish they wouldn't slice it so thick. I like it about thick bacon size. I would ask the meat cutters there but there is a language gap that I can't help. I usually fry it up just like bacon. I leave the skin on it (It makes for a perfect handle)