Pork belly is uncured bacon. The way in which this pre-bacon is cooked, can create a sublime feast. In this preparation, instead of first curing the belly, as would be done for bacon, it is Beer-Braised Pork Belly with a Creole Seasoning. This braising technique creates a juicy, moist, tender and delicious protein, perfect for many other recipe applications. I first made this dish and recipe for Seattle Beer Week, at Brouwer’s Cafe doing a special feast with Firestone Walker’s David Walker and the great Matt Bonney back in 2011. I wanted to use a malt forward brew, that would add a counter balance to the Creole | Cajun flavors in the menu’s theme and with this dishes essence. I have always loved cooking with DBA or Double Barrel Ale, as the oak barrel fermentation adds layers of incredible flavor to the brew, that ends up in the final dish.
This recipe can be a stand-alone dish, or it can become an ingredient in a recipe. Beer-Braised Pork Belly with a Creole Seasoning can be added to Red Beans and Rice, seared and served in a sandwich, or as the recipe below teaches, coated with a Cajun Spice Blend and Blackened in the Creole way, to create texture and pop the spices in a unique way. If you’ve never Blackened fish, poultry or other proteins before, it requires a very hot, like extremely hot cast iron pan. If you kitchen has good ventilation, it can be done on your range | stove-top. If your airflow isn’t very strong, try using a outside burner, whether it is a high BTU Cajun Cooker | brewing set up or a BBQ, set to the highest heat setting. Have the Beer-Braised Pork Belly cut and portioned, then coated with Creole Seasoning ready to go. Preheat the cast iron pan for at least 5 minutes or it starts to smoke. Add the butter and it should ignite, as the milk solids in the butter will catch on fire. Then carefully add the pork belly, cooking quickly on all sides, turning when the meat just turns black. If there is any Beer Braised Pork Belly leftover, it can be portioned out and will freeze well, for a quick dinner at a later time.
5poundpork bellyBerkshire breed if possible, skin romoved
Beer-Braised Pork Belly Directions:
Begin by combining the beer, brown sugar, salt, thyme, bay leaves and as much or as little Cajun Spice Blend as desired, in a 9-by-13-inch pan, mixing all the ingredients together well. Add the pork belly, cover with aluminum foil and place into a preheated 275°F | 135°C oven. Place into the center of the oven and braise for 4 – 6 hours, looking for a tender but not falling-apart texture.
To press the pork belly (compressing the layers of the belly to make it easier to cut and serve), cover the cooked and cooled pork with plastic wrap and place a slightly smaller flat pan on top of the belly. Fill the top pan with some canned food or heavy items and place in the refrigerator overnight to cool and compress. The next day, remove the weights and the pan, uncover the pork belly and remove it from the braising liquid (which you can reserve for other uses). Place the pork belly onto a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, trim the edges, cutting into serving-size pieces. For an appetizer or multi-course event, try a 1-by-1-inch size; for an entrée, cut to a 2-by-3-inch size.
Blackened Pork Belly Directions:
On the top side of the portioned-out pork, sprinkle an even layer of the Cajun Spice Blend. Place a heavy-bottom pan, preferably cast iron, over high heat and let the pan heat up for 4 – 5 minutes, until it starts to smoke. Make sure the range | stove area is clean and free of any other combustibles (towels, pot holders and the like). Add a few tablespoons of butter to the pan and let melt. Be careful, as the butter will smoke and most likely catch fire. This is OK, as the milk solids smoke and the fat ignites. Using tongs, place the pork belly seasoned-side down and let cook for 1 – 2 minutes, searing the spices and blackening them. Turn the pieces over and let warm through. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.