Monday, June 22, 2015

Cajun Braised Pork Belly

     Down Home Louisiana Cookin'!  
     Braising is an old French Cajun cooking technique that always seems to spell comfort.  Rich deep flavors develop when the braising technique is used.
     Tough cuts of meat are perfect for braising, because the slow cooking process tenderizes the meat.  Because the meat on Beef Shanks or Lamb Shanks is so tough, these specialty cuts are prime candidates for braising.   
     Tender pieces of meat or fish can also be braised, but the braising time must be reduced.  Tender meats require less braising time, because the tender meat will literally fall apart if the braising time is too long.  The goal of braising tender meats is to create rich flavors or to infuse flavor.  

     Pork Belly is the section of a pig that most people know as bacon.  Pork Belly has generous streaks of fat along with streaks of meat.  Because of the high fat content, the meat becomes very tender when it is cooked.  
     Braising pork belly only takes about 45 minutes for the flavors to infuse and for the meat to become very tender.  Braising at a high temperature or braising for too much time will cause the pork fat to release unwanted excess grease into the braising sauce.  For pork belly the fat should remain intact and juicy when fully cooked.  

     Pork Belly fat actually is a delicacy, but it should only be eaten with moderation in mind.  Lipids are an essential nutritional component.  Depending on how fats are cooked, the fat can be beneficial or it can be a health hazard.  Basically, the closer that fat is to being burnt, the harder the cholesterol profiles will be.  Hard cholesterols pose a health threat.  Soft cholesterol profiles are less harmful and many of the specific soft cholesterols are beneficial to health.  
     Not everybody metabolizes fats the same way.  Hereditary human genetic makeup determines whether the body tolerates a fatty diet or not.  Some folks cannot eat much fat at all, while Eskimos practically live on whale blubber in icy cold weather.  
     So as one can surmise, a rich pork belly entrée might look appealing, but not everybody can eat this kind of food.  Those who have cholesterol count problems certainly should avoid pork belly altogether.  People that are physically active and have no cholesterol problem can handle a rich pork belly entrée on occasion.  Eskimos could probably eat a plate of rich pork belly any day of the week. Its all relative to one's own physique and genetic makeup.  

    Cajun Braised Pork Belly is nice a winter comfort food entrée, because it provides fast acting energy that keeps the body warm.  The cayenne pepper definitely adds to the warming effect!  

     Cajun Braised Pork Belly:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     This recipe is made like a Gumbo, but there is no Andouille Sausage or filé powder in the recipe, so it should not be called Cajun Pork Belly Gumbo.  
     Cajuns do like plenty of sauce on a plate and rice is perfect for picking up the excess sauce.  There are so many vegetables and herbs in most Cajun braising sauces, that the sauce is loaded with nutritional value.  
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 8 to 10 ounces of pork belly that is cut into 1" cube shaped pieces.  (Trim the skin or rind off of the pork belly.)
     Sauté till the pork belly pieces are lightly browned on all sides.
     Step 2:  Remove the pork belly pieces and set them aside.  
     Drain off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of grease from the pot.
     Step 3:  Return the pot to medium heat.  
     Add just enough flour while stirring, to soak up the excess grease in the pan and to make a roux.  (The roux should be shiny and not caky.) 
     Constantly stir till the roux becomes a reddish brown color.
     Step 4:  Immediately add 1/2 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1 thin sliced small seeded serrano pepper.
     Stir till the vegetables just start to cook.
     Step 5:  Return the pork belly pieces to the pot.
     Add 3 cups of pork stock.
     Add 2 tablespoons of meat glaze.  (Glace viande.  This is optional.)
     Stir as the liquid heats and thickens.  The sauce should be a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 6:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (Add more or less to suit personal taste.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and braise the pork belly for 30 minutes.
     Step 8:  Remove the lid from the pot.  (Leave the lid off for the rest of the recipe.)
     Add 1/3 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced parsley.
     Step 9:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Step 10:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Keep the Cajun Braised Pork Belly warm over very low heat.  
     Use a custard cup mold to place a portion of plain white long grain rice on a plate.
     Spoon the Cajun braised pork belly and sauce on the plate around the rice.
     Garnish the rice with a parsley sprig.
     Serve with biscuits or cornbread on the side!

     Savory and full of great flavor!  The rice is great for soaking up the flavorful sauce, but most folks prefer to mop it up with cornbread! 

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