I’ve been drip feeding the photos for this recipe over the past few days as I’ve been preparing this dish. It has attracted a degree of curiosity from some people so here is the complete recipe and the final pictures. I’ve cooked this dish a few times now, it is a labour of love but well worth the effort.
Pork belly and brine
560~600 grams of pork belly, skin-on
4 cups water
3~4 star anise
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons pork fat, or oil for pan-frying
4~5 tablespoons Granulated sugar
Combine all the ingredients in “brining” except for the pork belly, in a pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the salt has completely dissolved. Chill the brine in the refrigerator until cooled. Place the pork belly in a zip-lock bag and pour the brine into the bag to submerge it. Rest the bag on top of a deep plate and leave in the fridge to brine for 6 hours. Make sure the pork belly is fully submerged at all time.
Preheat the oven on 230ºF/110ºC. Take the pork belly out of the brine and rinse it clean of any scraps, then really pat it dry with a clean towel. Place the belly, SKIN-SIDE DOWN in an oven-proof container that’s just wide enough to hold the pork belly, and deep enough to allow 1? or 3 cm of room on the top. The better the fit of the contain, the less fat you’ll need to confit the pork (a square cake-pan is great). Heat up enough oil (I just used light olive oil instead of pork fat) to cover the pork belly by at least 1/2? or 2 cm, in a pot until warmed through (but not hot enough to cook the belly). Pour the oil into the baking container, then cover with aluminum foil. Confit the pork in the oven for 4 hours. It should be easy to pierce through with a fork.
Carefully remove the pork belly out of the baking container with a wide spatula, WITHOUT breaking the skin or meat. Set the belly on the cutting board, skin-side up. Wrap a handful of wooden skewers together with tape. Pierce the skin ALL OVER with the tip of the skewers until you have made densely populated, mini holes throughout the skin. Do this GENTLY without breaking up the fat-layer underneath. I find it more efficient to move slowly from one side to the other, instead of random jabbing. I used a meat tenderiser instead of the skewers, these are available at good kitchen supply stores.
Invert and place the pork belly SKIN-SIDE DOWN on a flat-bottomed baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, then another piece of flat-shaped plate (the bottom of a cake-pan, or another baking dish) over the top of the pork belly. Rest something relatively heavy on top (2 cans, or a pot). Chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours, or until needed.
Unwrap the pork belly and place it on a cutting board. The skin-side should be as FLAT as a GRANITE-FLOOR. Trim the pork belly, according to the shape of the skin, into very clean, even and straight-edged square or rectangle. Heat up approx 2 tbsp of the confit-fat in a wide, NON-STICK pan over medium-high heat. Carefully lay the pork belly, SKIN-SIDE DOWN on the pan then turn the heat down to LOW. Take a piece of parchment paper and rest it over the pan, with a opening on the side FACING AWAY from you. Trust me, the skin is going to mini-explode and splatter. The opening allows the steam to escape, but also retain enough heat inside the pan to warm up the pork.
Leave the skin to crisp up over low-heat for 18 min, then REMOVE the parchment paper (we want to eliminate the moisture inside the pan now) and cook for another 5 min. Check the skin and see if the entire depth is blistered thoroughly. If not, keep cooking for another 5 min. It took mine about 30+ minutes. Once ready, turn the pork belly over to heat up the meat-side slighly, approx 1 min.
Move the pork belly to a board, skin-side up. Cover the skin with an even layer of granulated sugar. It should be thick enough that you don’t see the skin underneath. Caramelize the sugar with a blowtorch until completely melted and browned. Let the caramel harden. Invert the pork belly with the crème brûlée-side facing down. Use a VERY SHARP KNIFE, cut through the meat-layer and once the knife hits the skin-layer, PRESS THE KNIFE DOWN hard until you hear a crackle and feel the knife has cut through the skin. We served this with wilted chard, smashed beets and potatoes with goats cheese and a tart apple sauce. Well worth the effort.