Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rainy day in...January?

Today is a positively miserable day. It was 36 and rainy. How is that for January in Minnesota?

In anticipation of the rain (and possible freezing rain), I did my "long" run after work on Friday. I managed 9 1/2 miles. The trails were in terrible shape from some mist and drizzle earlier in the day, making the trails slushy with a thin, slick coating on top of that slush. Not much fun running. In fact, this has probably been the worst outdoor winter running I have experienced. Ick!

I did see a red fox on my run, so that was fun and took my mind off of the awful trails. I actually saw him a couple of times, both out and back. I whistled to him while he was sitting out in the meadow, causing him to crouch down, and then he just looked at me curiously. Funny and beautiful animals, those red foxes are.

As for today, since it was too yucky to do anything outside, it made for a good excuse to hang out in the kitchen and do a little experiment. I had a smaller slab of pork belly in my freezer, too small to be turned into slab bacon, anyhow. In one of my cookbooks, Gennaro Contaldo's "Passione," he makes a porchetta-style roast using a rolled and tied pork belly. I thought I would give this a shot, put my own little twist on it, and make bacon this way.

Since I have plenty of dry cure on hand (you remember Ruhlman's recipe?), I applied some of the cure to the pork belly, along with brown sugar, minced garlic, fresh thyme, and a mix of freshly ground fennel seeds, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, and let it sit for a couple of days in the fridge.

Today I removed the belly from the cure, rinsed and dried it, and covered it with a mix of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic, along with some additional crushed red pepper, black pepper, and a few more fennel seeds.

A well seasoned cured pork belly



I rolled and tied it, similar to pancetta, and roasted it in a 225 F degree oven until it hit an internal temperature of 150 F.

Here is what it looked like coming out of the oven



And here is a shot of the finished product - my homemade "Porchetta Bacon"



A culinary triumph, and ridiculously good! Sweet, savory, salty, wonderful flavor of herbs, garlic, and a little heat from the red pepper. Mmmmmm...this was a winner! I just made a sandwich with some of the bacon and did it in the style of a Reuben. I would have posted a picture, but it got kind of messy. I think I still have some thousand island dressing on my chin... :)

Until next time,

Jean
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