After a few months unsuccessfully seeking pork belly from the folks at Stillman's, I finally broke down and bought a couple of slabs in C-Town. It's not that I've given up hope that Stillman's will come up with something for me. I have just been missing the experimentation, and it's been a very long time since we've had fresh bacon in the house. I think the last time I was able to use the cut was in preparation for our trip to PDX, and it still kills me knowing that something crafted with such care was left with folks who won’t eat it unless it’s been burned to a crisp rather than browned lightly. That, however, is a different story.
While the C-Town belly (“bellie”) doesn’t have the heft of the ones from the farm, it’s just as versatile and is more likely to get a uniform cure throughout the cut. For this go, I ran with a variation of a braised pork belly I ran across in a Spanish cookbook at one point. I went sweet and used a whole vanilla bean along with a liberal sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Once the cure was done, I smoked the slab over a combination of corn cob and longan branches.
The result was more “porky” than I like for my bacon and though the flavor from the pepper is a nice undertone, I didn’t pick up any of the heat. Overall, it’s quite tasty, has a nice, subtle blend of flavors, and will work well for a number of uses.
For the record, we really do have a tremendous amount of food in the house. As we approach proper harvest season with the CSA, our stocks tend to swell alarmingly. I’m not exactly wringing my hands over it, but it has put me in the mind for responsible use. I’ve been cooking pretty much all week and feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Just as an example, I sat down yesterday and figured that we could make all of the following with relatively few additions and barely touching our stock of meats:
Chipotle Corn Chowder
Beet Ravioli with Poppy Brown Butter
Thai Curried Fish or Tom Kha
Chard Stalk Scramble
Cucumber & Melon Salad
Pancakes with Raspberry-Peach Compote
Duck Confit with Braised Red Cabbage
We had the corn chowder for dinner last night, but I’m still counting at least two breakfasts and five complete dinners in that line-up, and that’s just from the stock I remembered. Factor in the wildcard produce and leftovers, and that makes for a very full part-week before we get our next drop. If you are inclined to pop in, chances are good we’ll be able to feed you. No, really.
Overheard while passing the office of the younger. Elder asks:
"So it's funny because the pork chops are in the sandwiches??"