Pork Belly

The title here does not refer to the current state of our waistlines (apt though the description may be), but to the dish I made last week. Of course, our continued love of food like this is utterly destroying our feeble efforts to lose wei–um, eat more vegetables and try to be healthier.

Pork belly, as you may know, is quite the rage these days. It’s basically uncured, unsalted bacon, and most recipes I’ve seen use a cut large enough to roast. The beauty of the belly is that like bacon, it has lots of lovely fat, which produces a wonderful abundance of porky flavor.

Our belly did not come to us as a roast, but in thick bacon-like slices. We found them at Food World here in Durham, a former Winn Dixie south of downtown that has been transformed into a Latin/Asian market. Actually, “transformed” is too strong a word. The aisle signs remain unchanged and so bear no relation whatsoever to the actual items contained therein. (I found myself staring at 15 different kinds of soy sauce in an aisle labeled “Flour, Sugar, Cake Mixes, Baking Supplies.”) It is also not notable for sparkling cleanliness–it’s not dirty, exactly, just a little rough around the edges. But the prices are spectacularly low, and the store contains a bonanza of foods you won’t find at even on the snooty shelves of Whole Paycheck. A bag of 50 or so dried morita peppers? $3.99. At Southern Season, you’ll find similar items for about a buck–for each pepper.

But back to the belly. The bacon cut is more typically of Asian food (the label was in Korean, I think, which was mercifully translated), but since we had purchased so many wonderful Latin American foods, I decided to make a Latin version.

Chipotle Pork Belly Slices with Potatoes

8 slices pork belly
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Olive oil for sauteing
2 large potatoes, cut in 1/2″ pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chipotle peppers, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

Boil potatoes gently in salted water, covered, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Preheat oven to 350. Saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Mix garlic, peppers, and salt in small bowl. Place four slices of belly in bottom layer of roasting pan. Sprinkle with half of garlic/pepper mix. Add potatoes. Add onions. Cover with remaining pork belly slices. Sprinkle remaining garlic/pepper mix over top. Bake for 30 minutes.

The F Word

Fat, that is.

Last week I went in for my annual physical and the scale revealed terrible, terrible news: I weigh the most I ever have in my life. Not much more, but that’s not the point. Apparently the desserts, the bacon fat, the butter, the steaks, the pasta, and the wine (the last purchased and consumed to cope with the outrageous food prices here in the RTP) have taken their toll.

And so, Fred and I have embarked on a . . . an effort to improve our eating habits and get in better shape as middle age attempts to settle itself around our waistlines. To that end, we bought shares in an organic CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). The farm will deliver a box of fresh, organically grown vegetables to us each week at a mere $18 a pop–about the same amount as a small bag of lettuce at Whole Foods.

I made some particularly tasty dishes on our maiden voyage into the die–um, more vegetable-oriented food waters. One surprising effort was this soup:

Tomato, Cauliflower, and Ground Beef Soup

Serves 2 with leftovers

1/2 lb. ground beef (for vegetarians, omit beef and saute vegetables in 4 tbsp. butter)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into very small stalks about 1″ in size, or chopped
1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes (I had home-canned, but Muir Glen or another good brand would do)
2 c. chicken broth (if using canned, use low salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 – 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 tsp. thyme

Brown beef on medium high heat in medium to large soup pot. Drain all but 1 tbsp. fat, or leave fat in if you are not di–increasing vegetable consumption. Add onion and saute on medium high heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Reduce heat to medium; add celery and saute about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on medium heat until cauliflower is tender, about 45 minutes.