I have a confession to make: I am not entirely comfortable working with pressure cookers. I have never really worked on what I refer to as the big stews, the stuff braised till tender in pressure cookers. I think it stems from the time I went and bore the brunt of the accident when a pressure cooker on the kitchen hob blew up and I ended up getting hurt. (Long story; all I will tell you is that it involved a tripe stew.)
That said, I’ve been hard pressed to cook braises in a different way. I’ve tried slow cooking for hours (no dice; the stuff still ended up tough and dry) and parboiling the meat before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Nothing, alas, worked.
But when I modified a recipe recently, I got amazing results!
The following recipe involves oven-braising pork belly in a sweet and tangy sauce modified from the caramelized chicken recipe I featured a few months ago. As this involves pork – and a fatty cut of it, in fact – I took out all of the olive oil in the original recipe. Instead of thyme, I added equal amounts of dried basil and oregano. For this particular dish, you pop the meat – marinade and all – into a baking dish The end result: sweet, savory pork that melts in your mouth in the best way possible.
I recommend serving this dish with flour tortillas or Chinese pancakes (the kind used for crispy / Peking-style duck) or, better yet, Chinese-style steamed buns (kua pao) with spring onions and lettuce to go with the caramelized onions and lightly roasted tomatoes that come with the dish.
Oh, one other thing, don’t trim off the skin from the pork belly. It may not crisp up into crunchy crackling, but it becomes delectably soft, rich, meltingly chewy, and moreish.
Caramelized Pork Belly
- 1/2 kilo skin-on pork belly
- 2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 plum or Roma tomatoes (the ovoid ones), quartered
In a large ceramic bowl, combine the ketchup, sweet chili sauce, soy, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, basil, and oregano; stir well until the sugar has more or less dissolved. Add the pork and the onions; rub the marinade well into the meat. massaging it into the chicken. Cover and marinate at room temperature for at two hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6. Add the balsamic vinegar to the bowl, rubbing the meat well. Place the meat and onions in a large baking dish; pour the marinade over all. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the pork over; bake for an additional 25 minutes. Add the quartered tomatoes to the dish; bake an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven. Place the pork, tomatoes, and onions on a serving dish. Serve with tortillas, Chinese pancakes, or kua pao and fresh, crisp greens and finely-chopped spring onions.