Pretty Dishes


Pork Confit
August 5, 2010, 11:42 pm
Filed under: City Arts

As with many of the City Arts recipes I’ve photographed, pork confit is not something I would have normally tried of my own accord. And, in fact, it wasn’t me who prepared this dish. But I did get to document the entire process. I also got to consume the spoils, and boy was I blown away. Even though this is definitely a special-occasion effort, I can attest that it is a worthwhile one.

Pork is not a meat I tend to consider when I’m brainstorming what to cook. It’s not a meat I ever (or at least very rarely ever) order at a restaurant. I can’t quite explain why except that it doesn’t really excite me. I can count on two fingers the number of times I have prepared pork tenderloin or chops at home. It’s not that the pork didn’t turn out well—it was delicious—it’s just that it wasn’t so phenomenal that I was dying to make the dishes again. I don’t crave pork. I don’t think this is terribly uncommon. There are those people who go nuts for pork of every variety (Lorna Yee, for example) and those who just kind of go, “eh.” I’m usually in the latter camp.

I grew up eating pork chops. I think I got bored after a while. As a teenager and young adult I would eat bacon whenever I could. I probably had too much: now I only sample it if it really stands apart. Pork tenderloin is a wonderful cut, but it just doesn’t wow me the way other meats are likely to, so I don’t think about it. The exception to all this, of course, is that I love prosciutto. I like pancetta too, but a good prosciutto . . . oh my. This love developed later in my life when I actually had the means to taste a thing so fine. Maybe I’ll move beyond that someday too ( . . . or maybe not). Who knows?

The point being that I would not normally give a recipe that features 3 pounds of pork belly and an equal amount of lard the time of day. I can tell you firsthand that while the ingredients are inexpensive, the preparation is lengthy and intimidating. (Note that we had to ask at the meat counter for pork belly as it isn’t usually prepackaged. Ours came with the skin still on.) I’m glad I could observe rather than be in the thick of it all by myself. I was a bit scared. That being said, I might try it on my own sometime soon.

Why? The flavor and texture of the crisp-skinned, juicy centered pork belly still lingers in my memory. A mustard vinaigrette was the perfect tart accompaniment. It didn’t hurt that the confit was paired with quite possibly the most brilliant heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. (They were outrageously priced but absolutely made the case for local heirlooms over mealy beefsteaks any day of the week! Look at how gorgeous they are!) I cannot stress how much I enjoyed the dish. Maybe I need to reconsider my blah feelings for pork; apparently it’s full of surprises.

Therefore, I encourage you to throw caution to the wind. Buy that huge slab of pork belly. Buy that lard. Spend three days bringing it all together. Pick out some amazing heirloom tomatoes. Your taste buds and your tummy will thank you.

(Recipe and select photos here.)

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