Or should that be Anne Rubs Her PORK Belly? (That doesn’t sound that nice, though.)
Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell
Anne is cooking pork belly and she tells us that it’s just bacon that hasn't been smoked and cured. She’s going to give it a dry rub and cook it low and slow with sweated onions.
She’s also making a dessert of plums baked on top of cornbread, which looks inspired.
Anne takes out the raw pork belly, and, to make the point again, she says that if it were salted, cured and smoked it would be bacon. OR if it were just cured, without smoking, it would be pancetta.
That’s never a bad thing to be reminded of. You want to be prepared when someone asks, “What’s the difference between pancetta and bacon?” Now you’ll be ready.
Anne makes a dry rub with 2 tablespoons each of dried mustard powder, mustard seeds and salt. She adds a pinch of crushed red pepper some grated lemon zest.
Anne reminds us that pork belly is a very fatty cut of meat and there are other choices if you want something leaner. “Head for a pork chop,” she advises.
She adds a couple of garlic cloves into the rub and a tablespoon or so of sugar and a little chopped rosemary too. She rubs that all on both sides of the pork belly. She really gets it on there. After washing her hands, Anne covers the pork with plastic wrap. She tells us she will leave it in the fridge for 24 hours and then cook it for hours.
Anne is going to “rock out” some plums to go on top of cornbread. Will this be dessert or a side dish with the pork, I wonder? She slices up the plums and adds a little sugar. The correct term for what she’s doing is macerating, she says.
Oh good, she uses the same cornmeal as I do. Anne mixes together one cup of cornmeal, ¾ cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. (The Indian guy says to use the same amount of cornmeal and flour.)
She cracks two eggs (good, NOT on the counter) and mixes them with milk. 3 tablespoons of honey (from a bear - ugh) go in with a little vanilla and she whisks that all together. Interesting. She must be making a dessert, she’s making the mixture so dessert-y.
Anne makes a well in the dry ingredients and adds the wet stuff and, quickly and gently, whisks it in.
Actually, she gives a few more powerful stirs than I would, but probably her gentlest stirs pack more punch than my most forthright ones.
The melted butter goes in right at the end, so it doesn’t harden up again, she says. Hmm, I have NEVER done it that way, but I will from now on.
She pours the cornbread mixture into a square buttered baking dish. The macerated plums go on top and it bakes for 25 to 30 minutes at 350°F. I like that Anne nudges us to check it part way through and maybe give it a little rotation. In fact, she says to check ANYTHING part way through and not just to forget about it.
Anne now wants us to think about our flavor base. Today, that’s comprised of garlic, celery, fennel and onion. She slices the fennel in half and cuts out the core. She juliennes it and cuts the onion in the same size.
She sweats all the vegetables and then adds garlic, salt and some white wine and bay leaves. She reduces the wine by half as she keeps talking about her belly. Oh, Anne, only you! She adds 2 cups of “gorgeous rich brown chicken stock”.
Do you know how she got that stock so brown? There are two tricks - one is easy and one is not. The harder way is to brown the bones; the easy-peasy way is to add onion skins to the stock. I NEVER skip that step. I ALWAYS add onion skins when I’m making stock. And, frankly, I have never browned bones for chicken stock, only for beef.
(HERE is an absolutely fantastic rundown on how to make stocks of any stripe.)
Anne brings the liquid to a simmer. She nestles the pork belly into the braising liquid, always washing her hands between steps. She covers the baking dish and cooks it low and slow at 325°F for SIX hours. Meanwhile, her cornbread comes out. It looks really gorgeous.
Anne is serving the pork belly with mustard greens…to give a nod to all the mustard in the rub. She removes the bottom stems of the greens and washes them and cuts them into 2 inch lengths. They go into a pan with olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.
After the pork belly is cooked, she puts it under the broiler for the last few minutes to get it brown and crispy. Another way to deal with that is to sear the pork after it’s been cooked and portioned out. I like Anne’s way.
Anne greets her pork belly warmly as she takes it out of the oven. I like chefs who are civil to their food. Remember on Top Chef Just Desserts when Dannielle (the judge) said she could almost taste the resentment in Heather C's cookie?
Anne gives the mustard greens a stir and covers them again. She cuts the pork belly into 6 portions, although the recipe does say it serves 6 to 8…more like 10 to 12, but who’s counting?
Anne adds some vinegar to the greens right at the end. Then she plates them and places the pork belly on top. She spoons over the vegetables from the bottom of the braising pan. She tastes it. It’s “hugely flavored,” she proclaims.
She loves it with the greens which are tangy from the vinegar. That one bite looks like the correct sized portion. Then Anne cuts a piece of plummy cornbread and tops it with vanilla ice cream. It’s a sweet, delicious, perfect finish to her pork belly dinner.
Anne definitely makes me want to cook this rich and hearty meal, but I think I would skip the cornbread dessert and have a brisk (5 mile) walk afterwards. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d walk briskly all right, directly into the kitchen to get a piece of that plum cornbread.