The world alone can make your mouth water as it brings up memories of crispy fried bacon on Sunday mornings or late-night breakfast after night out at the bars with good friends. Bacon itself is usually considered a more, well, low-brow food that’s associated with salty, fatty goodness on the side of quick, inexpensive meals. But if that’s the only way you’re eating delicious pork belly then you’re missing out on what this magical meat has to offer.
There’s only so many way to cook strips of bacon, and most of them aren’t typically associated with a meal fit for a date. But immigrate into the territory of braised pork belly and you’ve just entered a food fit for fine dining. Here is what you need to know about the succulent dish before cooking for your next date.
The Most Tender Meat
Braised pork belly is common in many Asian dishes such as ramen soup (the culinary kind, not what you buy for a dollar). Pork belly is so rich and succulent that the Japanese describe its taste as “Umami,” which roughly translates to savory and filling. While slices of crispy bacon go down without filling you up, braised pork belly is much richer and a good cut should be treated more like a good tenderloin or cut of lamb.
But as you can see in the video from Gordon Ramsay above, braised pork belly is perfect for traditional American dishes too. So this is a very versatile entree we’re working with.
The Right Cooking Tool
Ramsay uses a roasting tray to braise his pork belly, and that works just fine, but an enameled cast-iron pot (also known as a dutch oven) will bring the tenderness of your dish to a whole new level.
Cast iron is already an incredible cooking tool — it’s nearly indestructible, distributes heat evenly, and is perfect for both the stove top and the oven. The dutch oven is a cast iron pot and lid with an enamel coating for added nonstick protection and perfect for slow cooking braised meats, especially pork belly.
Plus they just look great in the kitchen.
The Perfect Recipe
Now that you have your dutch oven and delicious cut of pork belly from your local butcher (you might have a hard time finding it at a grocery store), it’s time to cook.
This recipe from famous Mario Batali, a man who is certainly no stranger to amazing food, uses the dutch oven for this perfectly braised pork belly using brown sugar, fennel, rosemary, and various roasting vegetable such as carrots and celery.
Remember, this is no quick-cook meal. Be sure to allow 2 to 2.5 hours for prep and cook time. The best meats always require a little patience.
A Complementary Side Dish
Pork Belly is rich so pair it with a lighter wine and refreshing vegetable or salad for a well-rounded meal. Plate it like they do at the fancy restaurants and you have a meal that you won’t believe is the same as bacon. After taking that first bite and letting the pork belly melt in your mouth, don’t be surprised if you never cook this cut the same way again.