The Strip Club Meat and Fish B.E.L.T. (pork belly, egg, lettuce, tomato)
Ideally, this is a dish best prepared in the thick of summer when tomatoes, sweet corn, basil and salad greens have been soaking up the best of Minnesota's brightest season. It was conceived to taste like garden sunshine, all of the banner ingredients sourced from sustainable farms in our North Star State. However, pork belly is a fine and filling winter protein as well. Frozen organic corn and greenhouse produce make wonderful cold‐weather stand‐ins.
Note: This recipe requires overnight preparation
1# pastured MN pork belly
4 fresh tomatoes, 4‐6 ounces each
4 ounces mixed salad greens, washed
4 ounces Stickney Hill chevre
4 organic, cage‐free eggs
1 cup fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob
4 large basil leaves
½ cup roasted garlic puree
1 green onion, minced
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup carrot, peeled and chopped
1 bulb fennel, cored, rinsed and chopped
8 cloves garlic, clipped, peeled and smashed
1 cup soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
1 quart cold water
2 bay leaves
½ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
2 tbl mayonnaise
Scant 1 tbl aged balsamic vinegar
2 tbl MN sunflower oil, (plus 2 ounces)
1 small lemon, cut in four
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 tbl chopped fresh sage
½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced
Pork belly, once maligned as too fatty and greasy, is a luscious and sexy cut of meat when given the proper amount of love. Start by cutting your one pound piece in half, with the grain. In a one gallon glass or plastic bowl, pour in water and soy sauce, then whisk in sugar until dissolved. Add chopped carrots, garlic cloves, celery, fennel, red onion and bay leaf. Stir well until vegetables and garlic are coated with the brine. Slip in both pieces of pork belly and submerge. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
The following morning… pre‐heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a basket strainer over a small mixing bowl. With a paring knife, cut the tops and core from the tomatoes. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop out the ribs, seeds and pulp from the inside of the tomatoes, then follow up with your fingers, getting everything out, being careful not to tear the flesh or skin. This is a tactile experience. Clean tomatoes show you care. Deposit into the basket strainer, then use the back of the spoon to press the seeds and pulp against the strainer, gathering tomato water in the bowl. Discard the seeds and pulp, pour the tomato water into a measuring cup and wash the bowl and strainer. Stuff a basil leaf in each empty tomato and set aside.
Place a dutch oven on your stovetop over medium‐low heat. Remove chevre from the refrigerator, place in a small mixing bowl, allowing it to soften and reach room temperature. Remove the bowl of pork belly from the refrigerator. Take out pieces of belly, pat dry and place on cutting board. Place clean basket strainer over empty bowl and pour belly brine through strainer.
Add a little more than an ounce of sunflower oil to the Dutch oven, bring up to temperature (when you see it shimmer, but before it begins to smoke), then, using tongs, place both pieces of belly, fat cap side down, into the oil. Sear to a milk chocolate brown on both sides, then remove from pot. Pour out excess oil and rendered fat until just the bottom of the pot is coated. Add the strained veggies (bay leaf included) to the pot, reduce heat a hair, and sauté until all the fond (the porky bits clinging to the bottom of the pot) has been swept up and the
veggies have nearly cooked through. Add the reserved brine to the pot, then the pork belly, fat cap side up. Allow to return to a simmer, then cover and place in oven to braise for approximately three hours
Three hours later…place a large sauté pan over the burner with medium flame. Add about an ounce of sunflower oil. When oil begins to shimmer and run thin, add scallions and stir, quickly but carefully. Then add corn and reduce heat a bit. Saute sweet corn until it begins to ‘pop'. Reduce heat to low and pour in nearly all of the tomato water, reserving about two or three tablespoons. Increase heat and simmer corn and tomato water until liquid is reduced by 2/3. Stir in garlic puree, season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, remove from heat and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, fold together the chevre, sour cream (or crème fraiche), rosemary, and mayo. Add fresh cracked black pepper to your heart's desire. Be bold.
Fill each of the tomatoes with the sweet corn and roasted garlic stuffing and place on a buttered baking dish.
Remove the pork belly from the oven and place on your stove top. Remove the lid and set aside. The pork belly should be ridiculously tender at this point. Using a tongs and spatula, remove each piece by sliding the spatula gently underneath the belly portion and guiding it out of the pot and onto your cutting board with the tongs. (Leave the braising jus on the stove top, remove and throw out the bay leaves and allow it to cool. Once the rendered fat is skimmed off and discarded, it makes for a wonderful soup with rice noodles. Reduced, pureed and married with hot chile sauces and ketchup, it's a BBQ sauce that will tingle the nethers of anyone with a predilection for tasty flesh.)
Place the stuffed tomatoes in the oven for no longer than five minutes. Lay out four plates and place a good two tablespoon dollop of the chevre just off the center of each plate, then use the back of your spoon to spread it in a single swipe toward the edge.
Place the salad greens in a bowl and toss with a dash of sea salt, balsamic vinegar, the remaining tomato water, and about two and a half tablespoons of sunflower oil. Divide the greens evenly between the plates and place them on top of the chevre.
Going against the grain of the meat, slice each of the pork bellies into ten pieces. A very sharp knife and a gentle but firm back and forth motion will ensure clean slices and keep the tender flesh from tearing.
Using your tongs and spatula again, place five slices of pork belly on each plate just on top of the plated salad greens. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and slide them onto the plate, nuzzling the pork belly
Les Petit Mort: Fry the four eggs sunny side up and slide one on top of each tomato. Squeeze juice from lemon wedge over the plate.