Jim turned 25 last Monday. His birthday request was short and specific: cook him the pork belly we ate at Resto. He didn’t care what else was served, or even who was there; he just wanted that belly—in all it’s maple-and-lime, turnips on the side, decadently sauced goodness.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a recipe. It wasn’t on the restaurant’s website. Nothing came back when I searched “maple and lime pork belly”. The only thing I was sure of was the kimchi soubise—pretty self-explanatory: soubise is a bechamel with pureed onions in it, so kimchi soubise would substitute kimchi for the onions. I also knew there were turnips and green onions involved. But nada on the cooking methods, well, other than the fact that the waiter said the belly was glazed.
[And before you go gasping Bechamel! On pork belly?! let me explain. You don’t need a lot. And it was so good. It clung to the fried fat, yes, the layer of pan-fried fat on the pork belly, and made it even creamier and smoother and delicious-y-er. And it was his birthday. And we were celebrating. (Not that we won’t make it again – we will. Celebration or no. Because it was that good.)]
So, I started off with what I knew. I put the pork belly, fat side down, in an enameled dutch oven and rendered for 25-30 minutes. This is where, if you’ve never rendered the fat of a pork belly, you have to be brave. You’ll be sure that the meat is burning, that you’ve got to flip it over, or that the whole thing will overcook. It won’t (well, if it really, really, really seems to be burning, it probably is). If you look up to my pork, you’ll see the blackness of it—and that’s the way I like it. After it rendered I poured off the fat, sauteed an onion, and put the pork belly back in the pot, fat side up now, with a few glugs of maple, the juice of a lime, and a couple pieces of ginger. I added water to three-quarters up the side of the belly and prayed for the best during the three hours that it braised.
Then I made the soubise, with unhomogenized grass-fed milk. If you haven’t used this stuff for white-sauce making, please, drop your laptop and leave the house. Go to the nearest Whole Foods, or organic food store, no matter how far it may be, and buy some. Then get yourself home straightaway and make a bechamel, it will be thicker, creamier, and saucier than anything you’ve made with pasteurized milk. You don’t need to put it on anything, eat it from the spoon. (And then please come back here because I haven’t finished yet.)
Finally, when the pork was tender and falling apart, I sliced it thickly and put it into a nonstick pan with diced turnips. I let it fry away—rendering more fat, browning, just reaching black—until both the pork belly and the turnips were charred and fried and unimaginably good. It was tough, but I made it all onto a plate, covered it with the soubise and green onions and ever (I don’t know where I found the willpower) took a few photos.
And we celebrated Jim’s quarter century. It was everything he could want in a birthday dish. And, if I do say so myself (and Jim says too!!), better than Resto’s.
Pork Belly with Turnips, Kimchi Soubise, and Green Onions
- 1 ½ pound pork belly
- 1 onion, diced
- ¼ cup maple syrup, plus 1 tablespoon
- juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1-inch piece ginger, sliced
- ½ cup kimchi, chopped or pureed a bit
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ¼ cups unhomogenized whole milk
- 5-6 medium sized turnips, peeled and diced
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced
- salt and pepper
Score the fat side of the pork belly in a crosshatch pattern. In a hot pan, place the pork belly fat side down over medium-high heat and render the fat for 25-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove pork belly and drain off all but 1 teaspoon of the fat. Put pan back on the heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes. Add maple, lime juice (reserving zest) and ginger. Add pork belly. Add enough water to reach halfway to three-quarters up the side of the belly. Cover and move to oven. Cook for 3 and a half hours, uncovering when you have about an hour to go.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add kimchi puree to taste and cook a bit longer. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Remove pork belly from pot. Slice thickly. In a nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, add a few spoonfuls of the liquid from the pork belly’s pot. Add the turnips, and saute for a minute or two. Add the pork belly slices and leave in place in the pan for 5 minutes, moving the turnips around every 30 seconds or so. Flip the pork belly slices and let the other sides brown for 5 minutes. Remove slices to a plate, frying up the turnips in the rendered fat a but longer, until they are very brown. Remove turnips to plate. Drizzle warmed kimchi soubise over pork belly and sprinkle with green onions. Serve hot with crisp, cold beers.