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Bacon’s More Sophisticated Cousin

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The cast of characters. See also: The Usual Suspects.

Braised meats aren’t usually thought of when pondering Asian cuisine. Braising is generally associated with the French in dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, or American Pot Roasts. This is a fool-hardy assumption, however. Enter the Japanese preparation and staple of any ramen-ya worth its weight in rice, braised pork belly, or Chashu. Yet another adaptation of a Chinese dish, char siu, chashu has become something else entirely. While char siu usually refers to a roasted meat glazed with honey and soy (and added red food coloring in some cases) the Japanese took most of the same ingredients, turned it into a braise, and added their own flair with the addition of mirin and sake. Also, the Chinese use the term “char siu” to refer to any number of meats roasted in the same manner, for the Japanese however, chashu is made with pork belly. Nothing else. We can get behind that. The recipe that follows is a cross-reference between two other recipes I found and my own added spin here and there. The process is fairly long, as with most braises, but the ingredients are pretty cheap and simple. The differences in my recipe and the ones I referenced are these: One recipe called for rolling the belly, which is traditional, and the other did not. I went with the flat preparation. While rolling the belly takes longer to cook it comes out juicier, or so I hear, but that can be solved by simply cutting down on the oven time and keeping vigilant watch. There was, however, the issue of the skin. It likes to be cooked for a LONG time, which would make the rolled method more logical. I soldiered on with my plan though. The rolled recipe also called for skin on (or rind on) pork belly, while the other called for skin off. This suggestion I did follow. The flat prep recipe said to sear all sides and blanch the meat before braising while the other said to roll it and go. I seared, only the meat side, and did not blanch. I left the skin un-seared, and blanching after searing would inevitably wash away some of the brown color the sear provided. Color = flavor, a fundamental philosophy in all of cooking, so blanching after searing just seemed like a bad idea to me. That recipe was from a very highly respected chef, though, so what the hell do I know. One recipe also called for the addition of typically Chinese or South-East Asian spices like cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorns. This, too, I followed, predictably. Perhaps just as predictably the fish sauce was my addition. Had to be done. There was no way around it. It was for the benefit of science and all mankind, you see. I expected the skin to be tough and un-chewable but I was wrong. Very wrong! It was gooey and sticky and gelatinous, and provided a very interesting contrast in texture to the supple fat and the chewy yet melting to the tooth meat. Next time I try this I’m going to try one of the suggestions I shied away from this run just to see the difference. But for now, I’m satisfied with these results. It was good. It was really good. It was really fucking good! This is going to be a picture heavy post, so those of you who are easily offended by unadulterated and unapologetic food porn may wish to close this window now or just fuck off from the room. It’s about to get real up in this bitch. Chashu, Japanese braised pork belly. The ingredients:    
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Fuck you, Malbon! Any blood spilled because of this addiction is on YOUR hands!

2-2.5 pounds raw Pork Belly – uncured, not smoked, rind on 1 cup Mirin 1 bottle (300 ml) Hakutsuru Draft sake ½ cup of Honey 1 ½ cups Soy Sauce (Yamasa brand is my preference) 3” knob of fresh Ginger – peeled and crushed 1 Star Anise 1 stick of Cinnamon 1 tsp. Black Peppercorns 5 cloves of Garlic 6 cleaned and chopped Scallions 3 Tbsp. Red Boat Fish Sauce Kadoya Sesame oil Light Vegetable or Olive oil (No extra virgin!)        
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Yeah, yeah, I already know what your gonna say about overcrowding the pan... The meat is thick enough and is going to be cooked long enough to render that point moot.

Procedure: Preheat oven to 275 degrees, 250 if it wil go that low. Oil a pan with the light veggie oil and heat until just starting to smoke. Sear the meat side of the pork belly until golden brown. Set aside. Add a little bit of sesame oil and toast the dry spices (anise, cinnamon and black pepper) until aromatic, about 90 seconds. Add the crushed ginger and sauté for a few seconds, then add the garlic whole and stir fry for a few more seconds. When the garlic is just starting to take on a bit of color deglaze with the sake and mirin. Reduce by about half, we're really just looking to burn off the alcohol.  Once reduced add the soy sauce, honey, scallions and fish sauce and bring back to a simmer.        
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Most of the flavor in dry spices is locked in their oils. Toasting in a little oil brings them out more than if just pitched right in and gives them a little more complexity

    Place your pork belly skin side down in a deep and tight fitting oven-proof container and cover with the hot liquid. Cover loosely and place in the oven for 2 hours. Check on it at this point, the point of a paring knife should sink through to the bottom of the pan with little resistance.             Once it’s finished, pull it out of the oven and place it in the refrigerator, still covered in its braising liquid, until fully chilled. What will emerge is a slightly gelatinous liquid and pork belly that is much easier to slice into serving sized portions. If one were to slice it hot one would end up with a mess of basically pulled pork belly. Decidedly NOT what we are looking for here.        
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Ready to cover and lounge in the oven for a couple hours

Slice into 3 or 4 blocks through the narrower width (if it was whole this would be the length of the belly) and then into ½ to ¼ inch slices against the grain of the meat at the time of service. To reheat there are a few methods you could take. You could thicken the liquid with cornstarch and use it to glaze the slices in the oven or in a steamer until heated through. Or you could simply drop the slices in some simmering soup and pour that over some ramen. If you own a brulee torch you could char it slightly, which is certainly the most dramatic approach. Or you could do what I did. I placed the slices on a broiler plate, covered it with its braising liquid and put it in the broiler until it started to audibly pop. The popping is from the skin that was left on. At this point I pulled it from the boiler, basted the slices with the liquid in the pan, and put them back under the broiler, repeating this a few times until the slices were nicely browned.    
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Ready for it's semi-final destination. The Broiler!

Serving suggestions for this are myriad. As already stated, this is a classic topping for ramen, but Chef Takashi out here in Chicago serves it with steamed buns. Hell, you could just shove it in your slavering maw straight outa the broiler! By this point it’s been long enough in the making that any delivery method would be simply that. Just a means to get that unctuous pig belly into your impatiently awaiting face! The braising liquid in and of itself is a thing of beauty! Use it to season soup broth, as a pig infused marinade, as a fucking beverage! Seriously, its used to marinade the soft boiled, runny yolk but firm white eggs that are also a staple ramen topping!    
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Finally ready for a vicious tongue lashing! You dirty little pork belly...

I REALLY hope you guys try this, time investment be damned! Just like most braises, this one just gets better if left in the fridge for a couple days before serving. Which means you can make it well in advance and be the fucking hero of any dinner party! All the work having been done the day before, and being better for the aging, leaves you to focus on other things that might need to be done at the last minute. The pork belly will wait. It’s patient like that. This is a seriously good accompaniment to just about any vaguely Asian inspired menu. You will be in love. You will want to pour the liquid in your eyes.You will want to rub the meat all over your body to attract a mate. And if they are repulsed by it, fuck them! They aren’t good enough for you anyway if they don’t like perfume of pork fat, ginger and soy sauce!    
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Kadoya. Ask for it by name!

Live well and COOK PORK! -Jack        
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Serving suggestion! This or dive at it like a savage that hasn't seen pork belly in years. Either would be completely appropriate.

Great Plates: Rogue Estate BBQ

On July 29th our friends at Torino Espresso +Bar hired Rogue Estate's Catering gang to cook and serve a gourmet caliber BBQ Dinner to celebrate their one year anniversary. We sourced all out ingredients locally, including organic pasture raised pork from Melo Farms and served up these great plates: A VIP menu of BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, BBQ Spare Ribs, Detroit BBQ Co's FrankenBakon, Mustard Coleslaw, Smoked Mac & Cheese and Fresh Dill Pickles put smiles on a lot of faces.  Photos by Robbie Small and EatItDetroit. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Great (Paper) Plates – BBQ & Jam

R.E.'s pulled pork BBQ sandwich adorned with Michigan Tart Cherry jam from Slow Jams! Delicious-///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Rogue Estate Chef’s Night – Pantry Raid

[Rogue Estate Chef's Nights are a weekly dinner club for Rogue Estate residents and guests to get together to prepare and enjoy new menus, share, learn, teach and be inspired. Each week is hosted and led by a different person, giving everyone an opportunity to sharpen their knives and their skills.] This week for Chef's Night I hosted one of our recurring themes we call "Pantry Raid" - an excuse to use up various odds and ends that may be kicking around in dark corners, rediscover items of interest from previous recipes and of course meet the challenge of pairing a few good bottles of beer and wine to fit the flavors on the plate. We also had an added bonus of welcoming some new members this month as we expand the estate - the Tag Team of Megan and Jason joined Jack, Ian and myself in the kitchen and Frank did a Drive-by during the evening. Our menu was decidedly pork-centric, with a side of lake fish and a few vegetarian adaptations to meet Jason's obnoxious dietary needs. We started the evening snacking on water crackers and Slow Jams jam, along with a treat of Iberico Ham provided by Megan. Jack's App was up first - a Japanese rice & green tea dish with lots of condiments called Ochazuke, in which one of the condiments was a heavily camouflaged sinus clearing, eye searing blob of wasabi. Jack is a bastard. Thankfully, the dish was paired with Sake and beer, so we all managed to pull through OK. Next up - Ian presented a German inspired soup of pork, white beans, sauerkraut and carrots which was immediately dubbed "Fart Soup". He also came up with a veggie version for Jason which substituted additional fart in place of the pork. Despite the gravity of the ingredients, the broth remained light and clear and the dish didn't weigh too heavily on our bellies. My turn for the main:  a modified Filipino Pork Adobo starting with the basic preparation and adding some flavor punches and green veg at the end to mouthwatering results. And yes, I even came up with a veggie version for Jason involving carrots, jicima and beets. The beets turned it all red, but the textures and flavor were worth the christmas theme. Recipe for the Pork Adobo at the end of this article. Dessert - a rare treat at the estate since Rok went full time with her Cake and Rock Star business - Megan and Jason produced a pair of chocolate souffle cakes from scratch over the course of our dinner preparations - one topped with strawberry jam and whipped cream, the other with espresso whipped cream. I added my two cents to the sweets with an impromptu congee made from the first batch of rice that was way over cooked mixed to a pudding with a can of coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk and a handful of dried berries. As usual, nobody left even slightly hungry.     Rogue Estate Pantry Raid Pork Adobo
  • 2 tblsp oil or lard
  • 2 lbs Pork loin, chops or shoulder, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Soy sauce
  • 2 tblsp fish sauce
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1/2 lb frozen peas
  • 1 cup zucchini, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat parsley, finely minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice for serving
  • option: 1 tsp cornstarch + 1/2 c water
Rice cook time will vary, so use the instructions on the package to determine when to start cooking your rice so that it's ready to serve when the adobo is done after a 90 minute cook time. Season chopped pork with salt. In a 6 qt sauce pot, heat oil or lard on medium-high heat, add pork in batches until browned. push off to the sides and add the onion in to saute until just taking on color. Turn the heat back up to add vinegar, water, soy, fish sauce, bay leaves, black pepper and turmeric. stir to combine and un-stick anything from the bottom of the pot since this is essentially a de-glaze. As the liquid comes to just a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a good tremor without a full on boil. Cover and let it cook for an hour. Check occasionally to give everything a stir and adjust the heat as needed to keep everything below boil. After an hour, remove the lid and add the zucchini, stir and adjust the heat as needed to keep a merry tremor in the pot. After 15 minutes the liquids should be reduced and beginning to thicken. If you'd like a thicker gravy, whisk 1 tsp of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of warm water together, then stir that slurry into the adobo. continue stirring, add the frozen peas and remove from heat. Portion rice into bowls, spoon the pork, zucchini and peas over it and the gravy over that, then garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Hop on over and LIKE The Rogue Estate on Facebook to check out the full food porn gallery for this week's Chef's Night, as well as previous Chef's Night galleries.  -///  
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

What’s For Dinner – Smoked Pork Ribs

Dinner on sunday was two racks of the most amazing ribs I've smoked to date. Sweet, spicey, juicey, fantastic texture, tender but not mushy - I'll definitely be sad when I finish the left-overs from this meal. I shared with friends Sam, a fellow foodie and exceptionally skilled chef and Tommy, who is just plain picky and hard to feed. Both gentlemen plowed through, declaring much finger-licking goodness. A meal well done. This was a two day process and well worth the advanced prep. The dry rub can of course be made any time and stored in an airtight bowl. THE GOODS: The Rogue Estate Dry Rub #2 contains the following dry ingredients, which may be adjusted to suit your own tastDry Rub Ingrediantses. note - all of the spices I use are sourced from Penzeys for the absolute best power and flavor of any dry spice:
  • 8oz dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt (kosher, iodized, sea, whatever. it's all the same rock, people.)
  • 3 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tbsp oriental mustard
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 1 tsp lemon peel
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
combine the dry ingrediants in a sealable bowl and set aside. Good for 3 to 4 racks of ribs, depending on how heavy you prefer to coat. I personally am not shy with the rub, so I get 3 racks from a single batch. Dressing the Ribs: first - wash them thangs. Cold water, scrub with your hands and rinse em good. lay the racks out to dry on paper towel and pat the meat dry until it's just tacky. dispose of the paper towel. A dry workspace is a good thing so wipe up any spills. Use a sharp knife to help you remove any obnoxiously large hunks of fat and other connective tissue that isn't very tasty. Flip the Rack over so it's face down and peel away as much of the membrane as you can and dispose of that as well. Leaving the rack face down, place 1 sheet of your cling wrap a few inches larger than the rack flat on the workspace behind said rack. Apply the rub to the meaty parts on the exposed underside of the rack. It won't take much. When those few spots are coated, flip the rack over onto the cling wrap. With the Rack now face up, apply the rub liberally to every bit of exposed meat, get it into every noook and cranny, on the ends and all around. Grab a second sheet of cling wrap and lay it over the now thoroughly seasoned rack and do whatever folding is needed to seal the two sheets together on al four sides to give you a nice neat package. move it to a shallow pan or tray to catch any leaks and put it in the fridge over night. Cooking day: I use a hardwood charcoal fire in a horizontal 35 gallon drum-type smoker with an offset fire box. Being that fuels and builds are debated with the ferocity greater than most religions, the aforementioned configuration is my personal preference and whatever you use will do just fine as long as you keep the fire separate from the meat and you keep it cooking slow and low. Plan ahead! The number one ingredient in any BBQ recipe is TIME and lots of it. We're doing these slow and low, so give yourself at least 5 hours before you plan to serve. Pull the ribs from the fridge and let them warm up to room temperature while you're out setting up your smoker and your fire. Set up your fuel so you have an area of indirect heat large enough to accommodate your racks of ribs. I like to keep my smoke space in the 185-200F degree range for most of the process and finish up just a little hotter at the end. With everything hot, place the ribs in the smoker, small end farthest from the heat source and add the first installment of applewood, close the lid and walk away. Have a beer. Come check the thermometers in 10 minutes to make sure your internal temps are holding between 185-200F degrees and that there is smoke happening. If all is well, walk away.the finished product Mow the lawn. Call your mom. Wash dishes. Whatever you do, don't keep popping the lid open every 5 minutes. The heat and smoke do their best work if kept inside the smoker where the ribs are. Add fuel and fresh wood chips as needed to maintain consistent heat and favor in your smoker. At the end of hour 3, switch from Apple wood to the Jack Daniels wood. Also if you're so inclined, pull out the leftover dry rub and give everything a light sprinkle. At the end of hour 4, do some spot checks with your meat thermometer. Your ribs should be right up there with the air temp in the smoker with the lid closed, 185-200F degrees. give a little pull with your fingers or a fork on one end - meat should come off easily. Using your tongs, move the ribs from the smoker to a cookie sheet or other service tray that can hold the racks and catch the drips. The meat is still cooking, so it's time to cover it with some foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Once rested, you can grab the big knife and split the ribs up however you prefer, stack them in your serving vessel and enjoy. I'm thrilled with this recipe. That said, I'm always eager to learn new things and improve my techniques, so if you have any suggestions or if you follow my recipe yourself, leave me comments below! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.