Hey friends, it’s Laura here.
One of my favorite dishes to make is sous vide pork belly and, while I’m most inspired by Thomas Keller’s book Under Pressure, I tend to simplify his recipes into something a little more user-friendly. While this meal seems like you’ll have a lot of work to do, everything can be made ahead so it’s actually quite easy if you take it in steps.
I’ll be doing a separate post on Sous Vide and also on weighing vs. measuring, but to simplify, I’ll keep things to measures here and leave it to you to look up more about Sous Vide on Modernist Cuisine. I love their site.
Step one is to brine the pork belly overnight or up to 24 hours.
To make the brine, combine 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon each of fennel, coriander, smoked paprika and cardamom and crush it all up with a mortar and pestle.
Rub this mixture all over two pieces of belly, put in a large ziplock and refrigerate it for 24 hours (more or less).
The next day, remove the belly from the bag and rinse off the brine. It’s important to rinse very thoroughly or you’ll get too much salt and sweet in your final product.
Next, vacuum seal the belly with a FoodSaver or similar device and place it in a container of water. Attach your Sous Vide device to cook at 154F for 24 hours (more or less). Sous vide is somewhat forgiving so most people find they like to experiment with temperatures and time.
So now we are on to day three, and I’ve spent less than an hour on any actual preparation at this point. But I put more time aside for this day, as I’ll want to prepare a few more dishes for our meal.
Crackling Dust: Remove your pork bellies from the water bath, open the bag and let cool. Slice part of the top fat layer from the belly, perhaps about 1/4″ thick and set in a nice heavy pan or skillet. Render the skin down by cooking it over low heat until crisped up like bacon. Remove, dry completely and cool. Now cut or crush your pork belly bacon into small pieces and pulverize in a blender, food processor or a NutriBullet. The latter is my favorite way of doing this. More on this later too.
Fennel with Pernod: Prepare your water bath for 185F. Slice up a bulb of fennel into quarters or even eighths if it is especially large. Just keep the sizes consistent and you won’t go wrong. Set aside a few of those beautiful fronds for garnish.
Make up an herb sachet by cutting a piece of cheesecloth into a 5″ x 5″ square and fill it with 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon of whole caraway seeds and 3 star anise pods. Tie this all up with string.
Now put your fennel and herb sachet into your sous vide bag and add 1/4 cup of Pernod, a splash of olive oil and some kosher salt. Squish this around a bit and vacuum seal. Place this in your sous vide for an hour. Remove your fennel bag and set aside.
Almond Cream: Begin by toasting 1 cup of whole, skinned almonds in a 350F oven for about 25 minutes. Stir these around every 8 minutes or so to toast them evenly. Then put them in a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups of whole milk. Simmer on very low heat, skimming off any skin that forms on the surface. The milk will reduce quite a bit so watch to make sure it doesn’t scald and add more milk if needed. You want to keep the almonds well saturated the entire time.Now throw everything in a blender and add 1 cup of water. Whir it all up, add just a little salt and set aside until plating time.
I use my NutriBullet for all kinds of things calling for a blender because it’s smaller and easier to clean.
Orange Supremes: Peel and section 2 naval oranges, making sure all the pith is removed. Hmm, I could have done a better job at this myself. Set aside. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour this over your oranges. Set aside to cool. PS – this is Jimmy’s favorite thing ever.
Just before serving, place the fennel in a saucepan over medium heat with 4 tablespoons of butter. Melt the butter and add the fennel. Heat through for a few minutes to caramelize a bit and add a dash of Pernod. Cook for one minute more.
Plate your pork belly and sprinkle the crackling dust on top. Now add a spoon of almond cream, your fennel and the orange supremes. Garnish with the fennel fronds.
Bon appetit my friends. Have a lovely day!