I recently took a class from Harvard called Science and Cooking. I did it without ever taking an SAT exam or having an IQ above 140, all while wearing my slouchiest PJ and tucked in the comfort of my bed with a can of soda and a tub of gummy bears on the side, and burnt through 5 lectures straight in 1 week… Oh God bless bootleg DVDS. I was once again basted in the youthful hunger of my tender college years when hope was alive and the world was shiny…, as well as the exact reason why… I slept through half of it. Dude, there’s something about the echo? bouncing off the lecture hall?… that’s 10x more potent than sleeping pills on the deepest cellular level and sends me into a baby-state coma. But relax, I still overheard something in between my wee-wee breaks to share with you all.
Did you know… (oh I love saying that) that the myth of searing meats to contain its juices is all but… BULLSHIT!? (If you already knew this please exit the premise, thunder-stealer…) YEAH! I KNOW! All but fabricated by a German chemist around 1850, got endorsed and hence popularised around the world, until nowadays, still practiced religiously by most (slowly raising my hands…). High heat over the surface of the meat, although produces desired caramelization and flavors, does not in any way prevent the loss of moisture during cooking (in fact it may result in more loss). And the best way to cook a large piece of meat to its tender, juicy, gelatinous and godly perfection is still after all, under very low temperature over a long period of time (BBQ-ers can insert “I told you so!” here), sear or no sear. So, I don’t know if your brains arrive at conclusion the same way as mine… but may I introduce you to the birth of… my Christmas Morning Series.
I know I know… you think an operation like this – a slab of pork belly marinated and stuffed with a Jamaican jerk-spice mixture with a muddy green color so non-pretty you know it’s gonna be damn fine, then cooked low-and-slow to nirvana - is out of your reach no doubt. You who have a full-time job to keep, underage menaces to contain, long list of chores in dispute to bring your wedding vow down to its knees and a much-needed cocktail hour to prep yourself for doing it all over again the next day. You got no time to even roast a damn carrot let alone a freaking hunk of pork. I get it, and I guess that’s how something like a crock-pot came into its popularity, the idea that you can dump something in an electronic device and it’ll spit out dinner several hours later without any attention. Everybody loves a low-profile doer. But guess what… you already have a crock-pot… it’s called… THE OVEN (if you don’t even have an oven, you’re allowed to cry now)! You set it in motion before you go to sleep. Constant temperature. Low maintenance. Safe and silent. Then the next day you wake up to something better than Santa!
Here, let me show you. The other day, I started at 11 pm, hours before I typically go to sleep. I blended my jerk-mixture and rubbed it over my pork belly with tender affection. 4 hours later at 3 am, just before I typically go to sleep, I tied it, wrapped it and slided it into the oven. Then I woke up the next day at 12:30 sharp (this is my weekday schedule like it or not) and viola! It was like Christmas morning! The apartment smelled like a bona-fide jerk, and my meat thermometer pierced through the meat so effortlessly like it was buttah. And then? NOTHING! I just left it on the counter and carried on with my day until 1 hour before serving, I blistered it up in the oven and it was Dinner Impossible! Tender and moist pork without any brining because low-temperature cooking does that to your meat, which paired so well with the warm and spicy jerk-rub. Porchetta is too much work for your life?
Please, you can literally do it in your sleep.
Serves: 4 ~ 6
Pork belly varies largely in thickness. When shopping, try to find a slab that’s NO MORE THAN 1″ or 2.5 cm in thickness, with even distributions/layers of fat and meat. If the piece isn’t the same thickness from one end to the other, TRIM IT so that it is, otherwise you’ll have difficulty rolling it evenly thus, no even browning in the oven. Tying the porchetta properly with butcher’s twine is also important if you want a perfectly even roll. There is a more detailed photo/description of how to do this in my duck prosciutto post.
The Jamaican jerk-spice mixture will also work on pork butt, or even cutlets/chops if you are looking for a quick and easy recipe.
The timeline for recipe is based on a weekday to prove how doable it is, but of course weekend schedule will give you even more freedom. You just need to move forward/backward the starting point depending on your own schedule. Just keep in mind that marinating takes approx 4 hours, and the roasting time takes 8 ~ 9 hours.
- 1 large piece of skin-on pork belly, 12″ x 9″/ 31 cm x 23 cm (approx 1.85 kg/65 oz)
- Jamaican jerk-spice mixture: adapted from many recipes combined
- 10 (3.5 oz/100 grams) long Asian green chilis, or equivalent weight of jalapeño
- 6 (2.5 oz/70 grams) large green scallions, or 10 thin ones
- 7 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 of an onion
- 3 tbsp (1.8 oz/50 grams, approx 3″ or 8 cm) of ginger
- 1 tbsp (10 sprigs) of fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tsp of ground allspice
- 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp (or 4 whole) of ground cloves
- 3 tsp of salt
- 1 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 tsp of soy sauce
- 2 tsp of malt vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup of coconut milk for brushing
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling
- Wedges of lime to serve
Prepare the jerk-spice mixture:
6:00 ~ 6:20 pm: Leave the skin on the garlic cloves. Peel and cut the ginger into large pieces. Peel the onion and trim off the ends, as well as for scallions. Turn the gas-stove on medium-high flame, and toast green chilis (or jalapeno), garlic cloves, onion, ginger and scallions until the surfaces (approx 50 %) are slightly charred (this creates flavor as well as removing some excess moisture). Scrape off some of the charred skin from the green chilis and peel the garlic cloves. Then place ALL of the ingredients in Jamaican jerk-spice mixture into a blender, and puree until smooth.
Marinate the pork belly:
6:20 ~ 6:30 pm: Place the pork belly skin-side down. WITHOUT BREAKING the skin, make deep scores of the meat-side with a sharp knife in both direction. Place pork belly in a large bowl and rub the jerk-mixture (all of it) all over the pork belly, into EVERY nooks and crannies. Wrap with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge.
8:30 pm: Take the pork belly out of the fridge and let it continue to marinate under room-temperature for another 2 hours (so the pork isn’t cold before going into the oven).
Tie and roast the pork belly:
10:30 ~ 10:50 pm: Preheat the oven on 230ºF/110ºC.
Take the pork belly out of the bowl and remove as much of the jerk-spice mixture as you can from the SKIN-SIDE. Lay the pork belly SKIN-SIDE down on the board, and collect all the jerk-spice mixture and spread it evenly over the meat-side, pressing it into the scores of the meat. Roll the pork belly, from the shorter side to the other, into a log, just tightly enough without forcing out all the jerk-mixture. With a butcher’s twine (don’t worry about the string not being long enough in the beginner because you can tie/connect another string if needed), tie a knot on one end of the log about 1″ away from the edge. Follow the step on duck prosciutto post about how to continue. Every loop should be about 1″ or 3 cm apart. Then roll the entire pork belly/log in aluminium foil, then make several holes through the foil on the side that’s FACING DOWN (for liquid to drain during cooking).
Place the pork belly on top of a rack over a roasting pan, then onto the middle-rack of the oven. Then you forget about it. Go to sleep.
8:00 am: So 8 to 9 hours later. Take the roasting pan out of the oven. Insert a meat-thermometer into the center of the pork belly (without removing the foil), and the internal temperature should read around 180ºF ~ 190ºF/82ºF ~ 88ºC. Turn off the oven and leave the pork belly wrapped in foil under room temperature until the big finale, then go on with your day.
The big finale:
7:00 ~ 8:00 pm (or 1 hour before serving): Preheat the oven on 500ºF/250ºC. Once the temperature is reached, switch to medium-heat top-broiler.
Remove the foil from the pork belly (it may stick a little on the skin). Scatter a few pieces of onions or carrots on the bottom of the roasting pan to prevent smoking, then place the pork belly back onto the rack over the pan. Position the pork belly PRESENTATION-SIDE DOWN first, and brush the skin with coconut milk and sprinkle GENEROUSLY with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven on middle-rack until the skin starts to brown and blister slightly, approx 20 ~ 25 min. Flip the pork belly over, now the PRESENTATION-SIDE UP, brush with more coconut milk and salt’n pepper, and continue to roast until browned and blistered, another 20 ~ 25 min. OR. You can even do this in a large skillet. Heat up a bit of oil over medium-low heat and start browning the skin. Cover the skillet with foil (to warm up the center AND prevent splattering) and turn the pork once every few minutes until blistered evenly. I prefer this way actually because it’s FASTER, more efficient blistering, but it does splatter…
Let the pork belly rest for 10 min, then remove all the butcher’s twine. If you have a blow-torch, you can now torch the part of the skin that wasn’t evenly browned/blistered in the oven. Love blow-torch.
Serve with wedges of lime (and sea salt if needed).