I’ve been using this marinade with pork shoulder for a few years. Resplendent with the aroma of fennel, rosemary and thyme, citrus and a bottom end of smoked paprika and coarse ground peppercorns. Light garlic flavour, coarse sea salt offering just the right amount of seasoning and the natural pork flavours come out in this fabulous Sunday dish.
In goes the use of pork belly. Pork shoulder is out. This marinade was made for a rolled pork belly. This recipe won’t win any awards for “lean cuisine” but one doesn’t and shouldn’t eat pork belly that often. This is a celebration of pork meat – for those that like to treat themselves(and guests) to a wonderful Sunday dinner.
When making this dish, time can be your friend or your foe. Rush the dish and it will be too fatty and frankly not too enjoyable. Take the time to slowly roast this rolled pork belly and you’ll be rewarded with an aromatic Sunday meal that will tease you as it’s roasting in the oven, succulent and tender pork meat with a thin layer of fat enveloped by a golden-brown and crisp pork skin that I like to call pig candy. Don’t rush this dish -save it for a Sunday dinner.
To help render the fatty part of the pork belly, I’ve separated the fat from the meatier part. My approach is that I want to be able to season the underside of the fat portion and the top part of the meat section of the belly. I believe this layer of salt helps render the fat more and I’ve successfully seasoned the meat by getting beneath the thick layer of skin and fat. Separating the skin from the meat of the belly requires only a boning (flexible) knife and five minutes trimming but you may ask your butcher to do this for you.
While you have the attention of your butcher, you may want to ask him to show you how to truss a roast. What we have here is a a slab of pork belly broken down into a two parts that marinated then rolled and tied up. In essence, you’re rolling up the meat and tying it up with loops that resemble nooses around the meat. Your pork belly will shrink so it’s important to tightly truss your pork belly (video instruction included in recipe below).
A quick marinade, some rudimentary butchering skills and patience will take you from a slab of raw pork belly to a succulent roast of pork that surely will bring the family ’round the table on Sundays and hopefully for more of those weekday meals. Make a memorable meals, the family will show up for meals like these and this my friends, was a memorable Sunday dinner!
Slow-Roasted Pork Belly (Σιγοψημενο Πανσετα στο Φουρνο)
1 boneless pork belly (approx. 2kg)
Coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 heaping Tbsp. of Djon-style mustard
1 tsp. of smoked paprika
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. of rosemary, finely chopped + 1 whole sprig
2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
1 heaping tsp. of fennel seeds + more for topping
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. honey
juice of 1 orange
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
Pre-heated 400F oven
- Choose a pork belly that’s as lean as possible. Carefully cut off the top part (skin side) of the belly and reserve. In a small skillet over medium heat, add your fennel seeds and toast for 4-5 minutes while constantly shaking the pan. Remove the seeds from the pan and grind with your mortar & pestle (or a coffee grinder dedicated to spice grinding). Empty into a bowl and add the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped rosemary, thyme, paprika, black pepper, honey, mustard, zest and citrus juices. Whisk with a fork to incorporate.
- Pour the marinade into a glass baking dish (just big enough to contain your pork belly) and place the pork belly into the dish and ensure all the meat is covered with the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for 3 hours ( or 1 hour room temperature).
- Remove from the fridge and wipe off excess marinade (reserve the marinade). Season both sides of the belly with coarse sea salt and some ground pepper and season the inner side of your reserved belly skin. Place the skin on your work surface (inner side facing up and lay your belly on top. Place a the sprig of rosemary at one end of your pork belly and roll-up around the sprig.
- Using butcher’s twine/string, tightly tie up one end of your rolled pork belly and then make a loop with with the loose string, then place the loop of string under the rolled meat and tighten further down the roll. Repeat until you’ve tightly and completely trussed your pork belly (view this easy video instruction here).
- Place your tied pork belly elevated on a rack in your roasting pan and pour the reserved marinade over the meat and season well with coarse sea salt and sprinkle with whole fennel seeds. If you don’t have a rack, you can use thick slices of firm green apples and onions to keep your pork belly elevated. Add 2 cups of water and cover your roasting pan with aluminum foil and place in your pre-heated 400F oven (middle rack) for 1 hour.
- After an hour, check if you need to replenish the water in your pan, rotate your pork belly by one-quarter and cover and place back in the oven. Turn your heat down to 350F and place your roast back in the oven for three more hours. At one hour intervals, check/replenish water in the pan and rotate pork by one-quarter each time (this will help the skin of the pork belly render, brown and crisp up more evenly.
- After a total of 4 hours in the oven, uncover your pork belly – it should be a warm golden-brown. Remove the foil cover and place your pork belly back in the oven and allow the skin to crisp up. Again rotate the roast every 10 minutes until all sides are crispy. Remove from the oven and cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes and
- Remove the sprig of rosemary from the center of the pork and cut away the butcher’s twine from the pork belly as you slice each portion (this will help keep your belly in tact as your slicing. Sprinkle some Boukovo (chilli flakes) on each serving, serve with Greek roasted potatoes and some grilled red, yellow and green peppers. Alternately, slap some pork belly in a crusty bun and eat as a sandwich.
- For a wine pairing, I liked the Skouras red, aged in stainless steel barrels and the the finish has notes of anise (goes with the fennel in the pork).
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