Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brave the Braise

It's been awhile since an involved multi day challenge has come up (although technically there's been a more recent one)...  This is what we got when we chose to go with the Pork Belly option, although we were very close to going Short Ribs - maybe some other time...

We were excited to make time over Saturday so we could enjoy this for our Dinner on Sunday.  Fortunately, most of the time on Saturday is making use of the 6 hour down time.  From the recipe provided...

you can do plenty of other things in these 6 hours!  Enjoy!

Turns out that in 6 hours you can make tasty but ultimately unsuccessful mashed potatoes, yummy rabbit sausage, yummy pheasant sausage (both picked up from our Pork Belly 'dude' on a whim), a generous side of caramelized onions and get through a couple of bottles of wine...

Braised Pork Belly with Caramel Miso Sauce

We thought we knew where to get everything, and didn't foresee any difficulties.  We were a bit lackadaisical in our preparations only picking up the Day 1 ingredients on Day 1 and everything else on Day 2.  Seems like a fair plan, right?  Drat, it wasn't...

Day 1

Off to the store to get the Pork Belly and another store because somehow we ran out of OJ.  No fear of being able to locate the Belly at our friendly Butcher not too far away.  Didn't know they only carry them frozen... 

Do the math and figure out we've got about an hour and a half to get it thawed so we can get it out of the oven and cooled at least mostly before heading off to bed at a sensible hour.  We have a handy dandy defrosting plate (no idea what it's official name is, what it's made of, nor how it works - but it does) and cool water so we set to work.  As it turns out, an hour and a half was a little more time than we needed.

We made the 'Daring' leap that we weren't toasting and grinding spices just to make the kitchen smell nice (it did, btw) so we added them to the salt rubbing step kind of like a sparse dry rub.  Any objections?

Pork in the pot, everything else in on top.  Cover and into Oven. 

No touching, no peeking during the 6 hours.  A little bit of gentle poking once out on the counter before putting it in the fridge as we departed for bed.

Day 2

Bit of a sleep in, work out to get the day started.  Then go pick up the other items needed to finish everything off come dinner time.  Drat.  Our top 3 favorite local stores don't carry any form of Miso.  Really?  Maaaannn...  Oh well.  Off to google to find a suitable alternative of the variety made from things already lying around the house.  Not sure where we found it, exactly, but we went with some Tahini and an increase of Soy.  Any objections?

Making Caramel Sauce (no saying Carmel here, there's another 'a' in there, always - got it!) was something new and surprisingly easy, although a little frightening as things start to happen, but it all went as described.

Cutting up the Belly into pieces was easy enough.  The hard part was removing all the non-Belly bits and pieces that were stuck to the top of it.  Not evil hard, just hard because we didn't plan for it...

The Caramel - not Miso Sauce came together easily enough, although we barely had the required amount of braising liquid to add in.  Maybe that's why it says cover with foil and not the lid like we used?

Belly pieces into the sauce, cook for perhaps a little too long, but definitely using the wrong technique, to bring it all together.  Out on to a plate and enjoy.


We were expecting a slightly more smelly kitchen and living room during our 6 hours of entertaining ourselves.  Probably nothing to get excited about at all until past half way when the kitchen started to 'improve', but it was only during the last hour we got something over by the TV.  Oh well...

It was really tasty.  As noted, we didn't do the saucing part correctly.  We just sort of cooked them up like a 'normal' piece of meat in the sauce.  Oops!  We mostly rendered out the fat, but stopped as soon as we realized what we were doing.  Further review of the pictures provided the clue as to having the pieces spend most of their time fat side up.  Lesson learned!

But, it was still really tasty!

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



Worth the effort, even if we didn't quite execute the last step correctly!  There's no doubt we'll do this again, probably even for friends, but we'd have to try at least once more by ourselves again to get the hang of that last step.

Anticipating a rich dish, we reached far back into our cellar and pulled out a Grenache.   We think it worked out really well, especially as the wine was a little bit softer than what we thought it might be.


ps.  There's a moderately strong chance that we'll go hunt down Rhulman's book - although, for the record we don't really like him when he's on a show as a judge because he seems to look for what's wrong before enjoying what's great in a dish.  Maybe the book can change that impression?

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Responses pre Blog Platform Change

andy responded:
Great job, and good improve on not having Miso!

Shelley C responded:
Sounds like this one wound up a little more daring than you'd expected, but that it all came out delicious is the most important thing. Interesting substitution for the miso, but it sounds really tasty. Great job!

Carol responded:
Well done on the challenge - and you rose to the challenge with your subsittution - loved your blog. I am so glad you enjoyed the challenge!

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