A reader from America’s Greatest City writes to ask for assistance making a fancy, but not technically complex, dinner for New Year’s Eve. Read about a roasted beet salad with Maytag Blue and walnuts, and a braised beef short rib in a rich wine reduction, with gremolata, on the New Year page. (And for the vegetarians, there’s a vegetarian option. With poached eggs!)
I devised this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner in Los Angeles, as a third course. One guest told me it was better than food he had tasted for Top Chef Masters. You judge for yourself.
The secret is to braise the pork belly for 12 hours and to use the braising liquid, defatted, as the stock component in the pinot demi. For textural contrast and to keep the dish from seeming too heavy, use a julienned raw apple and peppery greens to finish the dish.
Slow braised pork belly, pinot demi, roasted apple and rutabaga
4 lb pork belly, skin on, bone removed
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1-1/2″ cube yellow rock sugar
1/3 c soy sauce (Japanese white soy preferably)
1 ounce dehydrated pear
2 bay leaves (Turkish)
6 sprigs thyme
6 cloves garlic confit
Blanch bellies, starting in cold filtered water. Remove once water just comes to a boil. Bellies may be blanched ahead of time and refrigerated or proceed immediately to the next step.
Place blanched bellies in stock, in a single layer in a deep heavy pot, with the other ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Cover with parchment and place in 190F oven. Braise 12 hours.
Discard parchment and remove bellies from stock and place in a small pan (1/4 hotel is good). Cover with strained braising liquid, defatted to extent possible. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil, and then with a flat surface such as a small cutting board or another hotel pan. Weight and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Reserve the pork fat if desired for the apples and rutabaga. Reserve any excess braising liquid and freeze.
Apples and rutabaga:
4 tart cooking apples, such as honeycrisp, 1/4″ dice
2 medium or 4 small rutabagas, 1/4″ dice
Reserved pork fat from braising liquid, or butter
1/4 c chicken stock
Set skillet on medium high heat and add 2 tbsp pork fat or butter. Saute apples until golden brown (do not turn too often) and set aside.
Wipe out pan, return to medium high heat, add more fat, add rutabaga. Add chicken stock. Allow rutabaga to become tender and turn once. Cook until rutabaga is golden brown. Combine with apples and set aside for service. May perform this step in advance and refrigerate.
To prepare bellies:
Oven 300F Remove fat from liquid (liquid will have gelled – be sure to save as much liquid as possible). Remove bellies and trim to square off edges. Reserve trimmings for future use. Cut into squares or rectangles of uniform size.
Place skillet on high heat. Add clarified butter or grapeseed oil. Place bellies in skillet, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp. Turn over and place in the oven to heat through. Meanwhile, prepare the demi.
2 large shallots, minced
3c pinot noir
4c braising liquid
1/2 c veal glace de viande (chicken ok as well)
2 oz unsalted butter, very cold
Place shallots and 2c pinot in saute pan. Reduce to au sec. Add another cup of wine and reduce to au sec again. Add the braising liquid and reduce by 2/3 (more or less – do not overreduce) and add the glace de viande. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Whisk in the butter to emulsify. Taste for seasoning but it should not need salt.
Hold for service if necessary.
2 honeycrisp or other tart apples (Granny Smith, Arkansas Black,etc)
1/4 lb pea sprouts or radish sprouts, leaves only
Julienne apples. Hold in lemon water if necessary and drain well.
Remove bellies from oven.
Place the apple/rutabaga in a skillet and reheat.
Sauce the plate with demi. Place a spoonful of apple/rutabaga on plate. Place square of belly atop vegetables. Top with apple julienne and pea sprouts.