My husband Jason and my brother Alec are allies. Each the youngest of three, they speak a common language, one I’m not too sure I approve of. In addition to their inability to find humor in the harmless practical jokes I may have played on Alec when we were kids (maple syrup in the water bottle we used to comb our hair, for instance), they also prefer the canned, gelatinous abomination known as cranberry sauce over fresh, whole fruit.
I’m in no way a purist. My Aunt Ali’s cranberry, walnut mold is the sentimental favorite, but the foodie, hipster compotes I’ve been cooking down since my mid-twenties deliver equal satisfaction. Still, despite my best efforts, because of Jason and Alec, I am forced to open one solitary can in an otherwise farm-fresh meal preparation. Until this year.
If there is one way to win over men with food, it’s a really fatty piece of pork. I promise, one mention of pork belly, and your father, brothers and uncles will gladly turn off the game and come running to the dining room table.
Pork belly took me a couple tries to get right. Rinse off the rub and pat the pork dry before the initial searing. Otherwise, the spices will burn. A lot of fat will render out, so don’t rush it. Cooking time matters. It’s darn good at 2-3 hours, but 6-7 is even more tender.
Braised in cranberry apple cider, the pork is flavorful and tender. A tart sweet cranberry compote is the perfect companion.
Alec and Jason, this round goes to me. Now if I could only get them to eat beets…
Cider Braised Pork Belly
*Begin the pork two days ahead of time, letting it dry marinate overnight and braise for several hours the following day.
- 1 1/2 – 2 pounds pork belly
- 1 tbs coarse salt
- 2 tbs Spanish paprika
- 1 tbs ground Aleppo pepper (or 1 tsp cayenne)
- 1 tbs fresh-cracked black pepper
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 2 tbs red miso paste
- 2 cups cranberry-apple cider (or 1 cup apple cider and 1 cup cranberry juice)
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbs maple sugar
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
- Mix together salt, Spanish paprika, hot pepper and black pepper. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut a cross hatch pattern into the skin side of the slab without penetrating into the meat. Rub pork belly with spice mix and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
- Warm a dutch oven over medium heat. Meanwhile rinse dry rub from pork belly and pat dry.
- Sear pork belly on all sides, starting with the skin side down. The fat will produce some smoke so get ready to fan your alarm. Remove pork belly and reserve.
- Pour off all but 2 tbs fat and return dutch oven to medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft. Add miso and cook 1 minute longer. Add cider, sherry and vinegar to pan. Bring to a boil. Add pork belly. The liquid should come half way up the slab of meat. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2.5 – 7 hours, until fork tender.*
- Remove meat from braising liquid, pat dry. Place the pork belly, skin side up, on a rimmed sheet pan. Set an oven rack 8-10″ under the broiler and place the pork belly in the oven. Cook 3-4 minutes, crisping up the skin. Watch carefully, making sure not to burn.
- Cut pork belly into 1/2″ slices and serve over cranberry compote.
*Braising the meat longer makes it more tender, but it was delicious at 2 1/2 hours. You can also braise it in the over at 200 degrees for 3-7 hours.
Citrus Spiced Cranberry Compote
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 star anise
- 3 cups fresh, whole cranberries
- 1 cup maple or brown sugar
- 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup ruby Port
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 2 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
- Melt butter in a 3 qt sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add shallot and sauté until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add star anise and cranberries and sauté for 3 minutes longer.
- Add sugar, cider, Port, orange zest and orange juice. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until liquid reduces to a thick, jammy glaze.
- Season to taste with black pepper, a pinch of salt and a splash of apple cider vinegar.