Pork Belly to make your own belly happy when you need to eat something serious

Ferdinand and Jonathan went to the movies. On my own, I don’t cook, I hunt.  I have had potato chips, an apple, plenty of cheese and crackers, some cookies that I found and the chocolate brownie fudge ice cream. It was made very clear to me that the ice cream was not mine, and I swore up and down that I didn’t even like chocolate ice cream, which is the truth, but is going to look like a flat out lie. What kind of mother teaches her child to express his deepest feelings and then has no respect?

That’s when you know that you should have cooked. When I add up how long it took me to find all that food and how long it took me to eat it, and the guilt involved, it would have been easier to spend the three days making the dinner from this Sunday’s NYT magazine. They can have it when it’s ready and the noodles and butter bit tonight. Three days is a long prep time even for a cook, but they said “the night (the guy) put it on his menu for dinner, he sold out in half an hour.” Who doesn’t want to be popular like that after you have eaten all of somebody else’s happiness?

To start (Marco Canora of Hearth) toasts 1 cup of caraway seeds over a low flame. I think 3/4 cup  is plenty.  Combine 1/2 cup of the caraway seeds, 3 Tablespoons of fennel seed the same of black peppercorn, the same of coriander seed, 1 cup of kosher salt, 1 cup of dark brown sugar, 6 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 cups of cider vinegar and 4 cups of water. You put 2 pounds of pork belly (center cut) in there, cover it, and stick it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Season a little with salt and pepper and brown on all sides VERY WELL. Transfer to a plate. Add 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk and 1 onion, all chopped and cook over low to medium heat until soft. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Add 2 Tablespoons of your reserved toasted caraway seeds to a little saute pan and dry toast for a few seconds over medium heat.  Grind them up in your mortar and pestle (buy one) and then add them to the vegetables.  Stir around for a few more minutes and taste for salt and pepper. Add the pork, skin side up and pour in 4 cups of good apple cider and enough homemade chicken broth (it’s worth it; just make a huge pan of stock and freeze the other half in pint containers) to cover the meat by 2/3’s. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn down the flame to a simmer. Cover with the lid askew and cook for 2 hours. Cool and refrigerate overnight. (Use this as a dinner ready for you to serve to your guests, even a few days after making it).

Get rid of the gelatin. Cut into pieces and heat up in a big skillet with the braising liquid. Reduce the liquid until it coats the back of the spoon. Serve this with braised purple cabbage (just sauted onion until seriously soft, a few thyme sprigs, a bay leaf, a little cider vinegar, a few peppercorns, and then throw in shredded cabbage with stock or water, or go to nytimes.com/magazine for a cabbage recipe with all scientific measures).

I like this with a hearty white wine and a pile of string beans on the side. Cheesecake for dessert.

It’s winter. You need a great big meal every other Tuesday to keep you warm and keep you happy.

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