’Tis the season for rich dishes that combat cold evenings. If you’re looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous turkey (or if you just plain like pork), this dish echoes the flavours and aromas of the bourbon barrel-aged beers I featured last weekend. It would also accent the maltiness of English-style barley wine quite nicely. Serve your favourite kale dish as a side so that you don’t feel too bad about eating and drinking such an ample combination.
Maple-Glazed Bourbon and Apple Cider Pork Belly
- 2.5 to 3 lbs pork belly, rubbed generously with coarse sea salt and pepper
- 1.5 cups apple cider
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup bourbon
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 pinches salt (to taste)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp mixed peppercorns
- ¼ cup dry vermouth
- 1/3 cup maple syrup for the glaze
Rub pork eight hours beforehand or, preferably, the night before. Remove from fridge about twenty to thirty minutes before cooking and preheat oven to 300 degrees. While the pork is coming up to room temperature, prepare the vegetables and the braising liquid (apple cider, bourbon, chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves).
Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a heavy casserole. Cut the slab of pork in half, and brown each piece over medium-high heat, one at a time, until golden brown. Drain fat, reserving 1.5 tbsp.
Add the vegetables to the reserved fat and sauté. Scrape all of this to the side, and deglaze with the pot with vermouth. Gently score the fat side of the pork belly slabs, return to the pot, and add the braising liquid. Bring up close to a boil and, if need be, adjust salt level before placing in the oven.
Cook in oven for 2 hours, and then turn the oven down to 200 degrees for the next 1.5 hours or so.
Remove pot from the oven, and remove the pork slabs. Strain and de-fat the sauce, and then begin reducing it. While the sauce is reducing, add the maple syrup. Continue Reducing until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
Cut the pork slab into large cubes, and crisp each fat side in a skillet or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Place on a plate, and spoon the glaze over the cubes.
Wine complements this dish just as well as beer. A lighter red wine would do just fine, but don’t forget about the compelling possibilities of white wine. Try an aged Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France – an excellent match with the maple and bourbon in the glaze – or even a crisp sparkling wine from California or the Finger Lakes.
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