Monday, May 5, 2008

Greg Atkinson's Mangalitsa Pork Belly Recipe

Below is an email I received today from Greg Atkinson:

Heath,

It was good meeting you on Saturday morning. I was delighted to try the Mangalitsa Pork Belly.

We brought the belly home and braised it with aromatic vegetables. It was pretty amazing. It seems to me that only the most devoted fat lovers would appreciate this sort of thing. But appreciate it we did. The fat has a very appealing foie gras-like consistency and flavor.

I'll be reporting on farmer's market pork in an upcoming issue of Pacific Northwest magazine, the Sunday newsmagazine of The Seattle Times.

Here's the formula I developed to braise the belly:

Pork Bell Braised with Aromatic Vegetables and Beluga Lentils and Broccoli Raab

An old cast-iron skillet with a close-fitting lid was my first choice as a vessel for braising the pork belly. A heavy, enameled pan (like a Le Crueset) would also work well. Except for the initial bit of fat that melted when I seared the belly, the fat did not melt out of the fragile structure, but remained suspended in a delicate matrix until it fell away with the nudge of a fork.

For the Pork Belly:

1 (1.5 to 2 pound) bone-in, skin-on pork belly, cut into two pieces
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cleaned and sliced thin
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
3 "coins" of ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepeprcorns
2 cups chicken broth
For the Lentils and the broccoli raab:
3 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup Beluga (small, black)
1 bunch fresh broccoli raab, or other braising green

1.) Gently sear the pork belly, skin-side-down, bone-side-up in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat until a few tablespoons of the fat is rendered and the skin is beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low to prevent the fat from smoking and keep searing until the underside of the pork belly is a deep golden brown.

2.) Preheat the oven to 300. Remove the pork from the pan and pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat left behind. Raise the heat back up to medium and saute the leek, carrot, celery, ginger and garlic in the pork fat in the pan until the vegetables are just beginning to color. Pour in the chicken broth and plant the pork, skin-side-up on top of the vegetables. Cover the pan and move it to the oven. Allow the pork to braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the fat and meat are falling-off-the-bone tender.

3.) To cook the lentils, bring the water to a full rolling boil with the salt and bay leaves and stir in the lentils. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are very soft, but still holding together, about 30 minutes.

4.) With a slotted spatula, lift the pork belly out of the braising pan and let it rest on a cutting board while you cook the broccoli raab. Strain about a half cup of the pan juices from the pork over the lentils, and discrad the solids. In the remaining pan juices, cook the broccoli raab over medium-high heat until it turns a dark emerald green, about 3 minutes.

5.) Plant a spoonful of lentils in the center of each of four large serving plates. Distribute the broccoli raab between the four plates arranging the greens in a wreath around the lentils. Cut each piece of the pork belly into two pieces and put a piece, skin-side up on top of each pile of lentils.

Best wishes,
Greg

Greg Atkinson
Culinary Consulting
5190 Eagle Harbor Drive
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
(206) 947-8636
www.northwestessentials.com

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