Tuscan Braised Pork Belly
The first time I ever cooked pork belly, which was actually pretty recently, I followed a recipe from Gather Cookbook (which I highly recommend, it's my favorite Paleo cookbook). A few months ago, my dad bought some pork belly from our local butcher, without having a plan for cooking it, or even a basic idea of how to cook the cut of meat––it ended up sitting in our freezer for a long time, until Gather. I made the braised pork belly with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and other wonderful spices and braised it with an onion and some sliced carrots––it was incredible. My entire family attacked it, I've made the same recipe a few times since then and every time, it all gets eaten up, it's a family favorite! Pork belly, despite being the same cut of meat that bacon comes from, has a very mild flavor that could pair well with a wide variety of of herbs and spices. I decided to put my Italian flare on the pork by marinating it with spices from the Tuscan region along with lots of fresh grape tomatoes! This version of pork belly was as well-liked in my house as the first recipe we tried! One of the best things about this dish (aside from the taste) is that braising is one of the more simple cooking techniques. It doesn't take much experience in the kitchen to put this together properly and once it's in the oven (after the initial fifteen minute roast), you can just walk away and come back two and half hours later to a delightful, tender, and flavorful pork belly that will transport you, via your taste buds, right over to a late night, outdoor dinner along the rolling hillsides of Southern Tuscany.
Tuscan Braised Pork Belly
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 2 hr, 45 min Total Time: 3 hr Serves: 6
2lbs pork belly, skin removed
2 large vidalia onions, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp rosemary leaves (about 2 sprigs)
1 tbsp coarse sea salt (for skin only)
1 tbsp oregano
1 ½ tsp fennel seeds
4 garlic cloves
salt (for herb marinade)
Combine rosemary, oregano, fennel, and garlic, and finely chop. Transfer the chopped herbs and garlic to a small bowl and mix in lemon zest. When well combined, stir in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Rub the mixture onto all sides of your pork belly, place in a large ziploc bag, press all of the air out, and let marinate in your refrigerator for at least six hours.
When it’s done marinating, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place your pork belly fat/skin side up in the center of a deep, oven-safe dish with a lid (I use two large casserole dishes––with all ingredients evenly divided). Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then remove from oven.
Lower your oven to 350 degrees F.
Surround your pork belly with the chopped onion, sprinkle the halved tomatoes on top, and pour chicken stock over the vegetables. Bake, covered, for two and a half more hours. Let the pork sit out for at least 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!