I think, by the end of this post, you'll understand why it was all worth it.
Chile, garlic, citrus spice rub for pork with a bit of cinnamon.
Grilled pineapple ready to be minced for the Guac.
Inner workings of the guac: tomato, jicama, toasted cumin, mint, cilantro, lemon and lime juice.
Roasted Pork Belly
1 Pork Belly – 2-2.5lbs
Salt – Kosher
Black Pepper – Fresh ground
Prepare the pork belly: Preheat your oven to 425°. Dry the belly throughly with paper towel, this will help crisp the skin. Score the belly with a sharp knife in a diagonal pattern about 1/2″ apart. Scoring the belly allows seasoning to penetrate the meat and helps to keep the skin flat when roasting. Season the bellies aggressively, to taste, with salt and pepper. Rub the salt and pepper into the scores, making sure no areas are missed.
Roasting: Roast the belly on a wire rack over a sheet tray, so it doesn’t sit in it’s own fat when roasting. Make sure to place the belly fat side up, so its fully exposed to the heat of the oven. You can also place the belly on a bed of cut vegetables, like onions, celery and carrots when roasting to keep the pork off the bottom of the pan. Start the pork at 425° for 45 minutes uncovered, then reduce the oven to 350° and roast for 2 hours. Starting at a high temperature will give a jump start to the crisping process, lowering the oven assures the pork won’t over brown.
Note: Some bellies are fattier than others. To keep a smoke free kitchen, check the belly after 30-40 minutes and pour off the excess fat from the pan. Feel free to do this as many times as needed.
Out of the oven: Remove the pork from the oven once crispy and tender. Most importantly, let the beautifully golden brown pork belly rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Once rested slice thickly and enjoy!
Chili Garlic Rub
Here’s a quick and easy rub to put on the pork belly before roasting to add even more flavor.
5-6 Dried Cascabel Chiles – A mild, slightly sweet dried chile
5-6 Fresh Garlic Cloves – Peeled
1tsb Black Pepper – Fresh ground
2tsp Salt – Kosher
Zest of 1 Lemon
Make the Rub: Combine all ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Pulse the ingredients until a thick paste is formed. Rub the paste on the raw pork belly before roasting.
Roasting: Follow instructions as posted above.
Zuni Cafe Pickled Red Onions
4 cups distilled white vinegar
Scant 2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken into a few pieces
4 whole cloves
2 pinches ground allspice
1 small dried chile, broken in half if you prefer a spicier pickle
2 bay leaves
About 20 black peppercorns
1 ½ lb. red onions
In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, chile, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat.
While the brine is heating, peel and trim the onions. Slice them into rings about 3/8 inch thick. Separate each slice into its individual rings, discarding any thin, leathery outer rings.
When the brine mixture boils, add about 1/3 of the onion rings and stir them under. They will turn hot pink almost immediately. As soon as the brine begins to simmer around the edges, about 20 seconds, stir them under again, and then remove the pot from the heat. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon, tongs, or a spider, and spread them on a platter or rimmed baking sheet to cool. They should still be firm. Repeat with the remaining onions, in two batches.
Once the onions have cooled—you can slip them into the fridge to speed them along—repeat the entire process, again in three batches, two more times, always adding the onions to boiling brine, retrieving them promptly when the brine begins to simmer again, and cooling them completely. [If you are cooling your onions in the fridge, this will not take as long as you think. It’s not so bad.] After the third round of blanching, thoroughly chill the brine. Transfer the onions and brine into jars: we used two quart-size Mason jars, which were each about two-thirds full. The most important thing is that the onions be in a container that allows them to remain submerged in the brine. Store in the refrigerator.
Age the pickles for at least a day before serving. They’re very good after 24 hours, but the flavors will have melded more harmoniously after 48. From there out, it’s delicious all the way.
The Guac was inspired by a brief happening upon the Drive-ins, Diners and Dives--or whatever it's called on FoodTv--and his visit to Momocho in Cleveland. While I'm not a fan of the host of the show, I was drawn in by the chef's combinations in his guacs(like smoked trout, goat cheese and crab meat). I however, went a simpler route and chose his combo of pineapple, jicama, chile and mint. I also added toasted cumin seed and, because my plants are no where near ready, I had to buy a few tomatoes. It was a small setback in my goal to NOT buy any this summer, but I just can't have guacamole without them.
Overall, they were simply the best tacos I have made to date--even better than these-- and it was definitely the BEST pork belly I've made as I didn't manage to f up in one way or another. The skin had great cracklin to it and the citrus and chile in the rub really came through. The belly was perfectly drippy with fat and juices and wasn't too bad a few hours later when I cut off a few more strips and enjoyed them straight up.