Crispy pork belly, what else is there to say? It’s the perfect balance of porkiness, juiciness and crispiness. I love making pork belly because you can cook it low and slow. That means you can set it, forget it and enjoy your day.
What says springtime more than peas and carrots? As a kid, I used to despise vegetables, avoiding them like the plague. I’m pretty sure my dog ate my vegetables more often than I did. Those were the days of not leaving the table until your plate was cleared. When my mother wasn’t looking, I would slide my pup a plateful of veggies. We had a very healthy dog. Now that I’m grown up, (and don’t own a dog at the moment), I love utilizing veggies in different ways, other than the boiled bland versions of my youth.
This recipe incorporates a bright green, silky smooth pea puree with dots of beautifully cooked peas. Later, I’ll share the secret to cooking peas. It’s so simple, it might surprise you. Then, we will add pea shoots to boost the freshness of the dish. They work well in a supporting role to the cooked peas.
This dish, like many of the recipes I create, plays off classic pairings. One of those is peas and carrots. Another is the tried-and-true carrots and ginger. Today’s Ginger Spring Onion Sauce encompasses the entire dish. Since pork belly is fatty goodness, our carrots are shaved and lightly dressed in a vinaigrette to balance it all out.
Overall, this pork belly dish balances the textures and bright flavors of spring. It will be a crowd pleaser amongst your family and friends.
Day 1: Marinating the Pork Belly & Preparing the Ginger Spring Onion Sauce
In my humble opinion, the Chinese are the undisputed champions of crispy pork belly. No one does crispy pork belly like them. The Chinese technique has the best crackling in the world with juicy seasoned flesh. The signature puffy bubbles all over make this pork belly crispy and crumbly. We’re going to give a nod to Chinese cuisine and utilize pork belly from Meat Wagon butcher shop in Kingston, NY. Stefano at the butcher shop has meat from Kinderhook Farm. The quality of his butchery skills paired with how Kinderhook raises the pigs make cooking this pork so easy.
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: There are two secrets for a super crispy pork belly: 1. Prick lots of holes in the skin. Pricking makes all the difference, yielding that beautiful bubbly crackling skin that is so unique to Chinese pork belly. The Chinese use a special tool to prick the skin. Me, I just have a Basic Instinct reference and the tip of a pairing knife. If you want to get creative, a small ice pick works as well. But anything that is pointy and sharp will work just fine (for example, metal skewers). 2. A roast covered in rock salt equals crispy crackling. Salt draws moisture to the surface, helping to guarantee you’ll get crispy crackling every single time. Why rock salt? Rock salt is easy to remove and it also will not penetrate the holes while roasting, so the pork won’t get too salty.
Be sure to marinate the flesh side of the pork belly only, not the skin side. That is because the spices and sugars in the Chinese cooking wine would cause the skin to burn when we broil it later in the final stages of the cooking process.
Prep Time: 20 to 30 minutes | Marinate Time: 12 hours (overnight) | Cook Time: 2 hours (day of service)
- 1 pork belly, skin on (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine), dry sherry or Mirin will also work fine
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper (substitute black pepper, if needed)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Step by Step
- Prick the skin side with an ice pick, sharp metal skewer or another tool to make tons of holes, but avoid piercing the flesh and fat as best you can
- Turn the pork belly upside down and rub the flesh side only with Chinese cooking wine, dribbling it on gradually
- Sprinkle the five spice powder, salt and pepper on the flesh side only, rubbing it in as you go
- Place the meat skin side up in a container
- Dab the skin dry with paper towels
- Refrigerate uncovered for approximately 12 hours (the minimum is 3 hours, but do not exceed 24 hours)
Ginger Spring Onion Sauce
Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes | Cook Time: 5 to 10 minutes
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 4 spring onions (scallions), very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Step by Step
- Combine the ginger, spring onions and salt in a small heat-proof bowl
- In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil until it starts to smoke
- Next, very carefully pour the oil over the ginger and spring onions
- Mix with a spoon to combine, then set aside in an airtight container until you are ready to use it in 1 to 2 days, maximum
Day 2: Cooking the Pork Belly, Making the Pea Puree, Marinating the Carrots, Preparing the Pea Shoots & Serving
Cooking the Pork Belly
Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes | Cook Time: 2 hours | Oven Temperature: 350 to 450F degrees
- Marinated Pork Belly (recipe above)
- 7 oz. rock salt
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Vinegar helps conduct the heat evenly.
Step by Step
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees
- Remove the pork from the fridge and place it on large, double-layered foil sheets
- Fold the sides of the foil up and slightly around the pork to encase it snugly, creating a 1/4-inch rim above the pork to hold the salt in
- Transfer the pork, still encased in the foil, to a baking tray
- Dab the skin dry with paper towels
- Brush the skin with vinegar
- Spread rock salt on the skin
- Roast for 60 to 90 minutes, until the pork is tender but not falling apart
- Remove the pork from the oven and transfer it to your work surface
- Raise the oven temperature to 450F degrees
- Using a potholder, move the oven rack to the middle position of your oven
- Fold down the foil and scrape all the salt off the pork
- Remove the foil and place the pork directly onto a baking tray
- Place the pork into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the tray once, until the skin is golden, crispy and puffed
- Alternatively towards the end of the high heat cooking, you can baste the pork skin with the really hot cooking fat to help crisp up the skin. Be careful as the cooking fat is extremely hot!
Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Cook Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Yield: 2 cups
- 2-1/4 cups garden peas, shelled (about 11 oz.)
- 4 ice cubes + 1 cup of ice
- 6 cups + 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon salt
Step by Step
- In a medium pot, combine 6 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil
- While you wait for it to boil, create an ice bath using 1 cup of ice cubes and 1 cup of water
- Once your water is boiling, add the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to the ice bath and let chill
- Drain the cooled peas and shake out the excess water
- Place the peas in a blender and begin to puree, adding 4 ice cubes as you blend to keep the puree cold
- Pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer and season with salt
This recipe is very quick, but packs a punch. It highlights the simplicity of carrots in springtime. Essentially, all you have to do is make a vinaigrette and shave some carrots on a mandoline. I like to use an assortment of colorful carrots from the farmers market. If you’re looking for more information about how to buy, store and cook carrots, check out this article on Farm2ChefsTable.
- 1 medium orange carrot
- 1 medium yellow carrot
- 1 medium purple carrot
- 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
Farm2ChefsTable Tip: Any light vinegar works, such as white wine vinegar, white balsamic or rice wine vinegar. Just avoid dark-colored vinegars as they will be too strong in flavor and mess with your presentation.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Flaky sea salt, to taste
Step by Step
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the tarragon vinegar, olive oil and sugar
- Carefully shave the carrots lengthwise with a mandoline or very sharp knife
- Toss the carrots into the bowl with the vinaigrette
- Season with flaky sea salt
- Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes, but not much longer or the carrots will lose their texture
Cook the Peas
There are a million ways to cook peas. When you cook peas, you want to cook them as fast as possible to keep them green and tasty. With that said, the fastest way to cook green vegetables (without waiting for a pot of water to boil) is to use a microwave. Yes, a microwave. Microwaves get a bad rap, but honestly, they offer rapid, high-heat temperatures and very little maintenance. A handful of shucked peas will take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes to cook in a microwave. Since this recipe is so quick, let’s save it for the very end, just before plating. I recommend cooking the peas as you wait for the carrots to marinate.
Prep Time: 5 to 10 minutes | Cook Time: Less than 2 minutes | Special Equipment: Microwave-safe bowl
- 1 cup peas, shelled
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
Step by step
- Place the shelled peas into a microwave-safe bowl along with the water and salt
- Microwave on high for 30-second intervals, up to 2 minutes until the peas are cooked
- Carefully remove the peas from the microwave
- Drain off the excess water, then toss the pease in olive oil and serve immediately
- Crispy Pork Belly (recipe above)
- Pea Puree (recipe above)
- Cooked Peas (recipe above)
- Marinated Carrots (recipe above)
- Ginger Scallion Sauce (recipe above)
- 1 cup pea shoots
- Olive oil
Step by Step
- On a cutting board, crunch through the pork belly skin with a serrated knife, cutting it into pieces and reserving any juices that might try to run away
- Add those juices to the ginger scallion sauce
- Grab a large plate, and smear the pea puree onto the plate
- Place 4 pieces of pork belly rustically on top of the pea puree
- Spoon your cooked peas overtop and all around the pork belly
- Rustically place the marinated carrots in and around the pork belly with no rhyme or reason
- Spoon the ginger scallion sauce over the pork belly, carrots and peas
- Garnish the plate with pea shoots
- Drizzle with olive oil
- Enjoy with your family or friends.