Today…………….I cooked my first porkbelly. And lemme tell ya, cher(e), it was good !
I had to go to my gigantic Chinese Supermarket to buy it, as none of the “regular” supermarkets carried pork belly.
It looked pretty much just like the one pictured below. They sold them in 8″ x 8″ slabs (about 1 1/2 inches thick), and also in packages of thick slices of pork belly (visualize the below slab cut into 1-11/2″ longitudinal slices). I bought the package of 3 slices, and the meat to fat ratio was about as shown below.
[Note porkbelly in NOT bacon slab; porkbelly is not smoked; it’s fresh pork.]
At home I seasoned them a la Cajun (cayenne snd black pepper, salt, garlic powder and sweet paprika). One of the videos I saw on the web said you should pierce the skin side all over (go thru the skin into the fat layer) with a porkbelly/fatback piercing needle. You do this to get a good “bubbly” and crisp cracklin’ when you finish off the dish. Well……….I didn’t have a porkbelly piercing needle……..but I did have those little corncob holders with the two sharp needles on the end (for holding the boiled corn cob while you’re eating the corn?) and that seemed to work well. Just watch your fingers! I then cut thru the skin only (visualized a scored ham surface, or see the picture below) about every inch along the strip. Then, I Seran-wrapped “the belly” and tucked it in the fridge for a couple days.
Today………I lined my small-ish baking pan (9×13) with Reynolds Al+++, and then lined the bottom of the pan with 1/4″ sliced yellow onions, and placed the “belly” on top of the onions; skin side up. I used another sheet of Al+++ to fashion a loosely crimped cover for the pan, and then shoved the pan into the oven at 250 degrees for 4 – 4 1/2 hours. (No oil, no water, no nuttin’. At that temperature the onions provide all the moisture.)
At the end of that time, I checked the dish, and it was just barely beginning to brown. I removed the foil cover, and turned the oven up to 450 degrees.(Make sure the skinside of the belly is still facing up and not lying on the side) Bake at this higher temp for about 1/2 hours (but watch it at this point. You don’t want it to burn.)
At the “end time”, the skin will be bubbly and crisp looking. The strips will be rendered with most of the fat gone; but not as dry looking as fried bacon fat. And, the meat portion will look good-and-moist; kinda like a good pork roast meat.
I removed the pan from the oven, moved the pork to a plate, and then poured off the fat from the pan. I then added about a cup of water to the pan, and stirred up the caramelized onions and the other “brown bits” that were in the pan, and then put it back in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. Made the best-looking DARK pork gravy since last Thanksgiving. (And the caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness to the gravy that goes oh-so-well on white rice.)
~provided by BoudinKing