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.

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