Agave Pork Belly with Grilled Piña
According to by Eric Werner and Mya Henry, authors of the cookbook Hartwood, “One day Antonio, a mason who helped build Hartwood from the ground up (and some of whose ten children have worked in the restaurant), brought in some pure agave nectar—the real stuff from the succulent plant, preservative-free and unfiltered, with some flakes of leaves left in it. He began pouring it onto roasted habaneros and popping them into his mouth. It seemed it was going to be so spicy. Imagine: a whole habanero in your mouth? You would need a week to get over that much heat. But he seemed fine. It turns out the agave provides an incredible balance to the hot pepper (though there’s still a mild burn). And it works beautifully against the fat of the pork belly as a glaze.” You’ll need to start the pork belly the day before you serve it. The long, slow cooking, plus weighting it down in the fridge overnight, makes it extra tender beneath its layer of grill-crisped fat.
- One 4-lb. (2-kg) bone-in pork belly or 3 1/2-lb. (1.75-kg) boneless pork belly
- 4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 poblano chiles, coarsely chopped
- 3 habanero chiles, sliced into 1/4-inch (6-mm) rounds, seeds removed
- 3 serrano chiles, chopped
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) agave nectar
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) water
- 1 large ripe pineapple (about 3 1/2 lb./1.75 kg)
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) best-quality apple cider vinegar
Preheat an oven to 250°F (120°C).
Season the pork belly all over with the salt and pepper. Put all the chiles in a large roasting pan and place the pork belly, skin side down, on top. Drizzle with 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the agave nectar. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup agave nectar and the water into the pan.
Cover the pan tightly with two layers of aluminum foil, transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours, carefully loosening the foil and basting the pork with the pan juices every hour. Turn the pork over, cover and cook until very tender, about 4 hours more.
Transfer the pork to another roasting pan; if it is bone-in, remove and discard the bones. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan (there should be about 5 1/2 cups/1.25 l); reserve the chiles. Gently boil the juices until reduced and thickened to a glaze (about 1 1/4 cups/310 ml liquid), 45 to 50 minutes. Add the reserved chiles and remove from the heat. Let cool, then refrigerate.
Meanwhile, cover the pork with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper or a small baking sheet. Top with a large plate and put weights, such as large cans, on top. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, bring the pork belly to room temperature. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill.
Trim and peel the pineapple. (If you have a pineapple corer, core the pineapple now.) Cut the pineapple into rounds 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick. Remove the core from each round with a small round cutter.
Brush the grill grate with oil. Grill the pineapple until nicely charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side; set aside. Let the grill cool to medium heat.
Reheat the glaze. Slice the pork belly into slices 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick, arrange on the grill and brush with some of the glaze. Grill until warmed and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Brush the pork again with some of the glaze.
To serve, place 2 or 3 pineapple slices on each plate. Spoon some glaze over, top with the pork belly and drizzle with the vinegar. Serves 6 to 8.
Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.