Pork Belly, Pickled Vegetables, BBQ Sugar, Polenta paired with Pure Leaf Peach Real Brewed Tea
It’s a challenging recipe and it will take some time to complete, but the end result is worth it. I could have eaten a few dozen o these pork belly hors d’oeuvres. They are fantastic for entertaining and perfect for the summer since they’re good hot or served room temperature.
When I think of barbeque, pork and polenta, I naturally gravitate towards the idea of peach. I wanted a fruitier and sweeter Pure Leaf tea to pair with it since the dish was already salty, spicy and a bit sweet. Sweetness is a good way to neutralize spice, so it was a balancing act and a great match.
Pork Belly, Pickled Vegetables, BBQ Sugar, Polenta
- adapted from the Alinea cookbook by Grant Achatz
- Photos and recipe testing by: Brenda
Yields: 8-10 spoon-sized bites
- 50g kosher salt
- 50g sugar
- 10g smoked paprika
- 3g chile flakes or powder
- 500g pork belly
Smoked Paprika Tuile
- 50g fondant (store bought or homemade, recipe below)
- 25g glucose
- 25g isomalt
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 large carrot
- 25g sugar
- 25g water
- 25g white wine or cider vinegar
- 1 English cucumber
- 100g uncooked polenta
- 300-500g water
- 5g kosher salt
- 80g butter, cut into ½” cubes
- 80g mascarpone cheese
To Finish and Serve
- Edible flowers or microgreens
Homemade Fondant (optional)
- 100g sugar
- 18g corn syrup
- 18g water
Notes for success
- When cooking through the Alinea cookbook, read the recipe through carefully and make a note of steps that may sound incorrect.
- The polenta was scaled to 4x what the original recipe called for. This makes much more polenta than needed for the recipe but the larger quantity is easier to cook. The polenta is so good though that you won’t think that you’ve made too much, and it’s delicious served with leftover pork belly.
- Homemade fondant can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 weeks. Refrigerate for longer storage.
- The ground sugar and chili mixture for the BBQ sugar tuiles is extremely fine so be careful not to breathe it in.
- Once ground, the BBQ sugar powder clumps quickly so sift it over the stencil to make the squares as quickly as possible, and do not allow the sugar to sit on the stencil. The sugar will clump over the edges and parts of it will pull away with the stencil, making for uneven squares. If this happens, resift the sugar. There is enough to make at least 14-16 squares.
- All of the components can be prepared ahead of time and stored for several days.
- If the polenta is prepared ahead of time, it will set up quite firm in the refrigerator. A small amount of water may need to be added during reheating until the texture is soft and smooth again.
- When placing the vegetables on the pork belly pieces, place the red pepper skin side down so that the tuile can stick slightly to the red pepper flesh. This prevents the tuile from sliding off as the pork belly is transferred to the oven for baking.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, smoked paprika, and chili powder.
- Pack the mixture around pork belly. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days or seal in a plastic sous vide bag overnight to cure.
- After the pork belly has been cured, rinse it in cold water to remove the rub. Place the belly in a sous vide bag and seal.
- Cook the pork belly sous vide in a large pot of water at 190F (88C) for 4 hours, or until tender.
- Transfer the bag to a large bowl of ice water to cool completely.
- Remove the pork belly from the bag and square the edges. Cut the belly into strips ~1 ¼” wide. (Depending on the shape of the pork belly, you may only get 1 or 2 strips.) Lay each strip on its side and cut the strip ½” – ¾” high. Lay each strip on its base and cut into 1 ¼” squares. Each final piece should be at least half meat. Cut as many pieces as you can, at least 8-10.
- Refrigerate the pork pieces until closer to serving time.
Smoked Paprika Tuile
- Line a sheet tray with a silicone mat.
- In a small saucepan, heat the fondant, glucose, and isomalt over medium heat to 325F (160C).
- Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and pour it onto the prepared sheet tray. Let it cool until hard.
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a sheet tray with a silicone mat.
- Cut a 2” square stencil, and place it on the silicone mat. Cut multiple squares out of the stencil if possible.
- In a spice grinder, grind together 75g of the hardened sugar plus the paprika and cayenne pepper to a fine powder.
- Immediately sift the ground mixture over the stencil, creating a layer ¼” thick on the silicone mat.
- Working quickly, repeat the process to make at least 10 evenly coated squares. There is enough sugar to make at least 14-16 tuiles. Extra tuiles are handy to have in case a few break when being removed from the mat.
- Bake the squares for 1 minute, rotating the pan once after 30 seconds. The squares should be completely melted and shiny. Bake for longer if necessary, watching closely.
- Allow the squares to cool completely.
- Carefully remove the tuiles from the silicone mat using a thin offset spatula. Store the tuiles in an airtight container, placing wax paper or parchment paper in between each layer.
- Core and seed the pepper, and cut off the ends.
- Quarter the pepper lengthwise and press each quarter, cut side up, flat to the cutting board.
- Remove any ribs and trim the flesh until you have only a ¼” layer of flesh attached to skin.
- Cut the pepper into ⅜” (1cm) squares. Cut one square for each piece of pork belly.
- Peel the carrot.
- Using a ⅜” parisienne scoop, scoop out 2 balls balls for each piece of pork belly. Rinse in cold water to remove excess bits, then place in a small bowl.
- In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and vinegar to a boil. Pour over the carrot balls. Let the mixture cool and store the carrot balls in the liquid until ready to use.
- Peel the cucumber. Using a ⅜” parisienne scoop, scoop out 2 balls for each piece of pork belly. Reserve until ready to use.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the polenta, 300g water and salt to a gentle simmer over low heat.
- Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the polenta has absorbed the water. Add additional water if needed to get a thick yet soft texture. Taste for doneness and seasoning and adjust if necessary. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk in the butter, 1 cube at a time. Then fold in the mascarpone. Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.
To Assemble and Serve
- Drain the carrot balls and blot them dry.
- Reheat the polenta if it was made ahead of time.
- In a saute pan, sear the pork belly pieces over very heat on one large side until charred. Remove from the heat.
- Line a sheet tray with a silicone baking mat. Place the pork belly pies on the mat at least
1 ½” apart, charred side up.
- Place 2 carrot balls and 2 cucumber balls on each piece of belly. Put 1 pepper piece, skin side down, in the center between the other vegetables. Center 1 tuile on top of the vegetables.
- Put the sheet tray under the broiler until the tuile melts over belly. Watch closely, this will happen quickly.
- Remove from the oven immediately.
- Place a small dollop of warm polenta on each serving spoon. Place a pork belly piece on top. Garnish each with an edible flower or microgreen and serve immediately.
Homemade Fondant (optional)
- adapted from Chocolates and Confections at Home by the Culinary Institute of America
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Boil for 4 minutes covered, then remove the lid, insert a thermometer, and continue cooking without stirring until the syrup reaches 236F. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool until it reaches 120F.
- Place a silicone baking mat on the counter and pour the syrup onto the mat.
- Holding two corners of the silicone baking mat, fold the mat over the sugar one corner at a time and push on the sugar. Use alternating corners to keep the sugar centered.
- The sugar will crystallize, turn white, and start to peel off the mat in a large solid mass. This can take 10-20 minutes.