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Twice Cooked Pork Belly Home Fries
The Cross-Stitched Pig, Part V
For a couple of years in the late 2010s I would occasionally answer my phone and be greeted by a caller asking “is this the local butcher?”
This perplexed me. Was it code for scoring drugs? Had I stumbled into a wormhole connecting me with some previous century, where local butchers were still a thing? The truth proved more prosaic. An actual butcher had set up business in North Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto” under the name “The Local Butcher Shop” and had accidentally supplied my phone number as their contact info on their Web page.
Imagine a high-end butcher “committed to seasonal, locally-sourced, sustainably-raised, fresh meat” located at ground zero of Northern California’s foodie revolution – literally across the street from Chez Panisse. Ponder the writing on the wall: “We have devised our pricing structure in order to equalize the value of the whole animal & to encourage you to eat from nose to tail.” Speculate on just what all this could mean when translated into sticker shock. Long story short, until last Thursday, budgetary prudence had prevented me from ever gracing The Local Butcher Shop with my presence.
But with the Supreme Court sounding like it is poised to strike down California’s law banning the sale of gestation-cage sourced pork, and with my last newsletter post’s ruminations about pork belly and the universe still echoing, I knew I could not possibly do one last test run perfecting my recipe for Twice Cooked Pork Belly Home Fries while depending on Costco-sourced pork. A new era of greatly reduced pork belly consumption may be about to begin, but I was still going to go out with a bang. Prudence be damned! Only the best for my readers.
Which is how I ended up paying $35 dollars for a pound and half of pork belly last week. And how I observed myself asking the butcher if he could tell me a little bit about the pig from which my slab of meat had been cut, feeling for all the world like I was the character played by Fred Armisen in the famous Portlandia skit, Colin the Chicken.
Enough foreplay. Here’s the recipe.
This is a feasting dish: I deploy my ponderous 14-inch diameter cast iron frying pan for the potatoes. The proportions detailed below are sufficient to feed four or five hungry breakfasters. I do recommend accompanying the dish with a lot of fresh fruit.
2.5-3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1.5 pounds pork belly
¼ pound beef chorizo.
2 medium-sized red onions
Two tablespoons minced garlic
Two tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon sweet wheat paste (tianmian jiang)
1 tablespoon fermented broad bean chili paste (doubanjiang)
1 tablespoon fermented black beans (douzhi)
Peanut oil or lard
There are two main parts to this dish. Part I is a home fry concoction that I tinkered with for years with my children as very willing test subjects. Part II is Fuchsia Dunlop’s Twice Cooked Pork Belly recipe, minus the leeks.
Part I: The Home Fries
1) Peel potatoes.
2) Peel and slice onions, thinly.
3) Cover potatoes with water in a pot and boil for 20 minutes, while also:
4) Fry onions in one tablespoon of olive oil until carmelized, approximately 20 minutes.
5) While boiling potatoes and frying onions, chop the garlic and rosemary.
6) Drain potatoes and allow to cool before chopping them into half-inch cubes.
7) Heat ¼-1/3 cup of olive oil in large frying pan over moderate to high heat.
8) Fry potatoes, turning every five minutes for 20-25 minutes until they are a crispy golden brown color.
9) While frying potatoes, saute garlic in a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a small frying pan, no more than 3 or 4 minutes.
10) Cook the crumbled up beef chorizo for about five minutes in the same small frying pan.
11) With about five minutes to go before the potatoes are done, add the garlic, rosemary, chorizo, fried onions and pork belly. Stir thoroughly. Serve to great acclaim.
Part II: The Pork Belly
1) Bring a full pot of water to boil and then simmer the pork belly for roughly 20 minutes.
2) Chill the pork belly in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
3) Slice the pork belly as thinly as you can into rectangles roughly an inch by an inch and a half. (Or larger, don’t stress about the exact size.)
4) WHILE FRYING POTATOES, pour a tablespoon of peanut oil or lard into your wok, and gently stir the pork belly over moderate heat for around 20 minutes. You may find that a significant amount of pork fat is generated by this process. Carefully drain the excess lard into a jar for safekeeping and later use.
5) When the slices of pork belly are almost ready, or, as Dunlop puts it, “they are toasty and slightly curved,” mix in the sweet wheat paste, fermented broad bean chili paste, and fermented black beans.
6) Add to the potatoes! Serve to great acclaim.
Ideally, you will have a range big enough to simultaneously accommodate a wok, a large frying pan, and a small frying pan. I have found the best results occur when I manage to finish cooking the pork belly at the exact moment the potatoes are done. This may take a little practice. It’s also OK to render the pork belly before starting the home fries, and then let it sit until reheating with the potatoes.
Will I ever make this dish again, now that pork belly is worth its weight in gold? Likely only on special occasions, which really means those rare dates when I can lure both my children back to California from Brooklyn. It’s a bit extravagant, and definitely not the healthiest entry in my ongoing Sichuan feast. It’s also pretty damn tasty.