Thursday, January 6, 2011

Braised Pork Belly Tacos

As I alluded to yesterday, I have decided to challenge myself more during this year.  Recipes and techniques that I've always wanted to try, I'm breaking them out this year and mastering them!  Well-thats the plan, anyway.  I kicked it all off on New Years Eve by making braised pork belly tacos.  The idea here was two fold, first I don't think I have ever formally braised before though I'm sure I've done similarly without acknowledging it, and second, I got to use pork belly, an ingredient I've been meaning to work with!

Simply put, "Braising" refers to the method of cooking where the meat is seared on the stove top first, and then finished in a covered dish in the oven, about half way filled with liquid.  Pork belly, awww succulent pork belly, is the same cut that bacon is made from- with all of its fatty goodness.  You can see why I was thrilled to use it!

Not sure entirely what to do with the pork belly, I scoured the internet looking for recipes.  I finally decided on pulled pork belly tacos (served in lettuce wrappers) as this recipe sounded like a good introduction to the meat.  Sadly, the outcome was not as I had anticipated.  Rookie mistake I've been told.  The pork belly was heavy on fat and light on meat, so once it had braised for several hours, there wasn't really enough meat to be impressive.  Additionally, the recipe called for a full cup of distilled white vinegar- an ingredient I very rarely use in cooking because of it's very pure vinegar flavor.  I went against my better judgement and followed the instruction for the cup, and kicked myself after.  The meat,  absorbed much of the flavor and resulted in a highly acidic end product.  It was far from inedible, but it was also far from being the tasty treat I had anticipated.

I consulted with a chef friend and I found that my errors were multiple.  First, pork belly is not meant to be a pulled meat.  The location of the fat and meat render it to be a much better meat to be braised and then seared, creating a crispy fat crust topping the tender meat.  Pulling should be left for pork shoulder or butt.  Word to the wise.  Additionally, apparently there are two ends to the pork belly- one is fattier, one is meatier- I should have gone for the meatier.  Finally, though it wasn't spelled out for me, I just trust my judgement- it if seems like too much vinegar-it probably is.  

All in all the tacos formed well (especially with the addition of a black bean salald and some delicious salsa verde I'll be posting about soon), but ever critical, I was disappointed in the flavor of the meat.  I will be trying pork belly again (soon) as this was far from mastering my challenge! 

7 comments:

Justin said...

A great first attempt. I've always wanted to cook a pork belly too. Where did you buy it?

MelissaNibbles said...

Sorry they didn't turn out the way you wanted, but at least you know what cut to use next time. I've never had pork belly...not sure what to expect!

Boston Food Diary said...

@Justin - got it at The Meat House in Brookline. Definitely going to get more!

@Melissa- I am too! I thought the Belly would give it a unique twist...

kitchenmisfit said...

I love pork belly. I had the best pork belly at Reagle Beagle in Brookline. A-mazing. Good first lesson though, I definitely want to try some homemade pork belly too!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

You are selling yourself way too short here! The pork belly tacos were really good! They had an excellent flavor that went so well with the bean salad and the salsa!

Anonymous said...

Next time try not searing it. Put a dry rub on it. Still braise it, but don't cover it with liquid, put just a little liquid in your pan. put some chopped mirepoix underneath it to elevate. Cooked it covered in a very low oven....like 200-250 degrees. Then sear it after. try that.

Anonymous said...

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