Pork Belly & Braised Fennel

Pork Belly with fennel seeds, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme rub.

I am not too sure why it took me so long to blog of that Crispy Pork Belly recipe I made last time my sister-in-law came over for dinner with her boyfriend Kasper. It was my first time cooking this cut of meat and Oh My! I love it. It’s one of those dish where the only thing that is needed is a gorgeous cut of meat and some dry rub of spices then you leave it in the oven for a couple of hours and it will work his magic! And what you end up with is a super crispy skin with sooooo tender meat that you can by hand pull apart… YUM!

Last week, one my of Facebook followers the lovely Mandy asked me how I made my Crispy Pork Belly. A perfect reminder that the recipe should go on the blog 🙂 The time had come!

Slow roasted pork belly with the sweetest braised fennel.

Pork belly is a joy to eat but still an underrated cut of meat in Europe. Which is really weird because it is quite cheap and oh so delicious when you give it a little love. You can slice it about 1cm thick and chargrill it until crisp with good results, but for this recipe slow-cooking for 4 to 5 hours is the way to go. By slow-cooking the fennel as well you get an incredible sweetness and it works so well with pork. Both are great served with mash, polenta or lentils – I love it!

Crispy Pork Belly served with truffles, mashed potatoes and braised fennel.

Crispy Pork Belly served with Braised Fennel and Mashed Potatoes:

Serves 6 to 8
Cooking time: 4hrs

Ingredients:

– 2kg pork belly on the bone
– 2tbsps fennel seeds
– sea salt and freshly ground pepper
– 4 fennel bulbs, each cut into sixths, herby tops removed and reserved for serving
– a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
– 5 gloves of garlic, unpeeled
– olive oil
– 1 bottle white wine
– mashed potatoes to serve

Method:

Preheat your oven to its maximum temperature. Get yourself a sharp knife, or even a clean Stanley knife, and score the skin of the pork belly.

In a pestle and mortar or a Flavor Shaker, bash up the fennel seeds with a tablespoon of salt until you have a powder, then massage it into the scores of the skin. In a roasting pan, toss the fresh fennel with the thyme, garlic, a good splash of oil and some salt and pepper. Place the pork belly on top and put into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 325° and roast the pork for one additional hour. By jolting the temperature right up at the beginning and then turning it down, you will start the crackling off nicely; the meat can then continue to cook slowly.

When the hour is up, take the tray out of the oven, pour away any excess fat, add the white wine and pop back in the oven for another hour. Now remove the fennel and keep warm while you put the pork back in for a final hour until the skin is golden and crisp and the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender. If the wine starts to evaporate during this time, add a splash more, or a touch of water, to loosen and make a light gravy.

Allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes and you’ll have a beautiful ready-made gravy and lovely sweet, soft fennel. Carve the meat into large chunks and serve with the gravy, mashed potatoes and the reserved fennel tops sprinkled on top.

Wine recommendation:

I always think it’s misleading to describe pork as a ‘white meat’. Strictly that’s accurate, I suppose, but ‘whiteness’ somehow seems to suggest lack of flavour. Although that’s still true of much mass-produced pork there’s far more rare breed pork around these days which has a great deal of character. It’s certainly substantial enough to carry a red, on the other hand it is often accompanied by ingredients – such as apples or fennel – that point in the direction of a white.

To tell the truth white wine is a better match than red with most roast pork dishes but psychologically one tends to expect a red with a roast, even one cooked, Italian-style with fennel, thyme and garlic. I personally enjoy “Italian reds”  with pork: something like a decent Rioja or a Chianti Classico though I know many pork fans prefer a Pinot Noir. BUT If you can move outside your comfort zone you will find many whites will match well with roast pork, especially when it’s served cold. An off-dry German Riesling makes a delicious match for roast belly pork served with braised fennel.

The Dutch boyfriend’s opinion:

Crunchy, crunchy, chrrrrrrr….. Very nice to try! The crispy skin with the fat of the belly was an unexpected combination, and I have not yet decided if it was a pleasant one or not. It looked beautiful and smelled delicious thought, and I did re-fill my plate 3 times so I guess I should say that I liked it 😉 However it is a “fatty” cut of meat so after a few bites it felt heavy on the stomach… So my humble advise: combine it with something light and fresh.

Rate: 7/10

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7 thoughts on “Pork Belly & Braised Fennel

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