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About that pork belly confit…(and a consolation prize)

December 7, 2008

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Hi all; I’m back! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving – ours was fun, but went by in a flash, and now we’re heading full speed ahead into Christmas season!

I realized that it’s been virtual crickets chirping around here lately regarding my much-touted pork belly confit. I have eaten it. But here’s the thing…hmm, I don’t know how to quite say this…

I didn’t…um…like it as much I thought I would.

Ack, the embarrassment, right? After all my going on and on about how excited I was about it, how happy it would make me, I realized that (a) I perhaps should have tried a different curing method, one a bit more savory, as the resulting confit tasted slightly reminiscent of christmas cookies (should have done this instead – covering it in white wine while curing), (b) I should have tried a different preparation method, like braising, rather than one so completely dependent on fat, because (c) as much as it pains me to say this, I think it might have just been too intensely fatty for me. Sigh.

Anyway, here’s how it looked when I sliced some pieces off one of the confit chunks:

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Basically fat with some thin stripes of meat, right? Yep. Would have made great bacon, but it was too late for that since it was already “cooked” via the confiting. At this point I just wasn’t feeling like breading and deep frying the pieces, as they were with Ruhlman’s caesar salad; I opted instead to pan-fry up a few chunks and toss them into a salad with roasted beets, caramelized onions, and a tart cider vinaigrette.

Here’s how they looked after being pan-fried — kind of like bacon to the max.

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close-up : imagine crispy on the outside, molten fattiness with a pork flavor on the inside.

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another close-up. looks kind of like fried bacon, huh?

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and here they are in the salad.

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So here’s the thing; it’s not that they were bad — they were just intense. As in, I should have probably only confited just 1/2 pound of pork belly instead of 1 1/2 pounds, because really, you can only eat a little bit at a time. Each bite had a crispy crust that gave way to molten, porky fattiness inside — like I said, not inherently bad, just intense. And so I froze the rest. Because the thought of little fatty pieces of pork belly being on my daily menu for the month was sadly a little too much for me, even with my love of pork. Ah well.

But all wasn’t lost on the eating front. After Thanksgiving, we had a friend over for lunch, and alongside some butternut squash soup with sage, we had these cheddar, apple, caramelized onion and thyme crostini. I was looking to make something for alongside the soup, appropriate for the season, and they were born out of inspiration from ingredients we usually have in our pantry, fridge and freezer this time of year: apples, good whole grain mustard, extra-sharp cheddar cheese, onions, and a generous sprinkling of bright, woodsy thyme. I’ve been using these ingredients in a grilled-cheese type sandwich lately too, and they are so delicious together!

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my current favorite kind of whole-grain mustard. we love it. hence the monster container.🙂

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ready to pop in the oven

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that’s two bites of deliciousness, right there

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Apple, Cheddar, Caramelized Onion and Thyme Crostini

an Eggs on Sunday original

view printable recipe

Ingredients
1 medium baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
olive oil
1 apple, peeled and sliced thinly, and sauteed in a little olive oil or butter until tender but not falling apart
2 onions, sliced into thin half-moon shapes and sauteed over low heat in a little olive oil until caramelized
grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tablespoons good whole-grain mustard
about 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions
Preheat the broiler on your oven, and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Place the slices of baguette on a sheet pan in a single layer, and brush them with a little olive oil on the top side. Place the sheet pan in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the tops of the bread are just starting to turn golden brown around the edges.

Take the pan out and assemble your crostini (leave the slices of bread right on the pan.) Spread each bread slice with a little mustard, top with a little cheddar cheese, then a few apple slices, a few caramelized onions, and finally a bit more cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves.

Return the pan to the oven, just long enough for the cheese to melt. Serve warm.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2008 8:07 pm

    Ah, sorry to hear the kitchen experiment was not a total success – I tried to can tuna last spring – that did not go so well – but it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and try something totally new.
    The confit pieces might make a nice soup garnish??
    The crostini look lovely – I’m a bit of a mustard fanatic and I haven’t tried that brand so I will be on the lookout.

  2. December 7, 2008 11:10 pm

    Really enjoying your blog.
    As to the pork belly…nothing ventured, nothing gained. There is always next time!!
    Love the recipes, and some friends that I have turned on to your blog did them too!

  3. December 8, 2008 9:51 am

    So sorry about the pork belly. That salad with the beets, though, is beautiful…I’m glad you made the best of it. And the crostini look and sounds like a perfect go-to snack. Glad you’re back!

  4. December 10, 2008 8:30 pm

    Sue – agreed; it’s definitely good to step out of our comfort zones! What is your favorite kind of mustard?

    Nicole – agreed! Thanks for visiting, and for passing along my blog to your friends!

    Kristin – thanks🙂 – the crostini definitely are a great snack.

  5. December 15, 2008 7:25 pm

    Don’t feel badly–I also tried pork belly, I braised it, and while I thought the braise itself was terrific (it was Latin American inspired, a Daniel Boulud recipe), the pork belly did nada for me. I would use beef chuck or pork shoulder if I made the dish again. But like you I was glad I tried it.

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