Monday, January 9, 2012

Red-Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou)

Alex has demanded that he receive extensive shout outs and/or praise in this post.  And since the praise is well-deserved, I am inclined to give it to him.  While I was at work yesterday (yes, I know yesterday was a Sunday but such is life) Alex was home vacuuming the apartment and making us a delicious dinner.  He also bought me new ski boots, but that is beside the point.  I love that I can point out a recipe (and generally provide the ingredients or a shopping list) and arrive home from work to glorious smells and homecooked food.  By the time I arrived home the pork had already been braising for about an hour to an hour and a half and the Smacked Cucumbers were prepped.  My husband is pretty awesome. 

I know this is a bowl of heart attack waiting to happen, but man is it delicious.  This might actually be my favorite pork belly preparation we have tried to make at home.  It just had so much flavor - both sweet and savory, and the texture was perfect - unctuous, but with enough chew to it that you didn't feel like you were eating straight up pork fat (which you were to some degree).  The smacked cucumbers were the perfect accompaniment because they were fresh and acidic, which balanced out the fattiness of the pork belly.  We also served some white rice with the pork, which I highly recommend.  Definitely don't serve a fried rice or anything elaborate with the pork belly - because the dish is so rich, you want the sides to be as simple as possible.

Recipe after the jump!

Red-Braised Pork (Hong Shao Rou)
Adapted from Land of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes Personally Gathered in the Chinese Province of Sichuan
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1-1 1/4 lb fresh, boneless pork belly, preferably with skin
2-inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled
2 scallions, white and green parts
3 tbsp peanut oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 of a star anise

Blanch the pork for a couple minutes in boiling water, then remove and rinse in cold water.  This step can be omitted if you are in a hurry.  Cut pork into 2 to 3-inch chunks, leaving each piece with a layer of skin and a mixture of lean meat and fat.  Crush the ginger slightly with the flat side of a cleaver or a heavy object, and cut the scallions into 3 or 4-inch sections.

Heat the oil in the pot until just beginning to smoke.  Add the pork chunks and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.  Then add the stock and all the other ingredients and stir well.

Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer, half-covered, over a very low flame for about 1 hour, stirring from time to time (Alex stirred roughly every 30 minutes for the first hour).  Remove lid, stir and continue simmering over a very low flame for 30 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Increase heat slightly and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring more regularly, until the liquid is much reduced and the meat is fork tender.  Total cooking time is roughly 2 hours.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, you should stir the pork regularly to ensure that the pieces are evenly lacquered. 

Remove from heat.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork belly from the rendered fat.  Serve with white rice and smacked cucumbers.

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