OK, so pork belly is trendy and everyone has done it, but there’s a reason for that: it’s luxurious! It’s hard to make pork belly taste anything but amazing. At a recent Gather With ME dinner party, we decided to develop a pork belly appetizer. If you are one of the few people out there that hasn’t tried pork belly, it is rich so definitely needs something to cut that richness. This is usually accomplished with something sour or bitter. Since it is watermelon season, we decided to pickle it (not the rind which is also good, but the actual flesh). Unless you have a butcher that will work with you, it can be difficult to find pork belly. Our go-to is a local Asian market and that’s where you should start your search. Hispanic markets also frequently have it. We have a local source for heritage Duroc pork, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to get any when we needed it for this particular recipe. Given the choice though, always buy local and know where your meat comes from.
For this recipe, you will want the skin removed from the belly. The butcher will usually happily do this for you, but it’s a simple task to do at home. Plus a side benefit of doing it at home is that you have the skin to make homemade Chicharones! I’m not gonna lie, while this isn’t a technically hard dish to make, it takes a few days to prepare, but ooooh is it worth it! So start it on Sunday and you can have pork pops for Friday night with just a couple steps in between.
The first time we tested our idea, we skipped the deep-drying step. While it was very good, the deep frying is well worth the extra step to develop the nice outer crunch and improve the fat texture. If you don’t want to take the time to head a deep fryer of oil, you could also just sear the pieces off in a pan. Just take care as they do (literally) pop while frying. The one step not to skip is the pressing part. You will find that this firms up the delicious fat layer and make it much more pleasing to the palate.