Friday, 6 August 2010

Crunchy, Crispy, Crackly Pork

Crispy and crunchy crackling!

One of my favourite dinners has to be roast pork.  Now, I'm not fussy whether it's British Roast Pork or Chinese Crispy Roast Pork.  Either way it's got to have that lovely crunchy, crisp light bubbly crackling!  When I see it on a restaurant/pub menu I am often tempted to order it and salivate in eager anticipation.  Last time I saw slow roast belly pork with crackling on a pub menu, yes -  I did succumb and order it.  To be honest, I shouldn't have bothered.  The crackling was chewy tough leather.  I didn't finish the dry fibrous pork either.  Disappointing.  So, my rule is now, if I want to eat Roast Pork I have to get in the kitchen and cook it myself.  With the exception of buying the Chinese Crispy Pork though.  Have never had a bad one. 

Had to drive hubbs to work a couple of days ago as his car was still at the garage for a service.  Hubbs is a programmer for Costco UK and so it was an excuse to go wandering in for Coffee and Danish - I mean to look around the warehouse!  I haven't been to Costco for a while and they do have good quality meat there at reasonable prices.  Problem usually is that it's faaar too much for the two of us and I'm too lazy to portion and freeze the excesses.  That and I ought to clear room in the freezer too! 

I was having a good ol' browse and nosey and saw a slab of belly pork.  I was actually looking for some pork ribs as hubbs wanted them for dinner when we took my mum out for dinner on Monday.  The place we went to had a bit of a long queue so we turned tail and ran.  Hubbs didn't get his rib fix either.  I got a reasonable sized piece 1.2kg not too big for the two of us and the skin looked like it should roast and crisp up well.  (Mum has taught me not to go for the pale and flabby looking skins that despite all your efforts will not crisp and puff up for roasting.)

I finally got round to preparing the pork for dinner today.  Now I would normally prepare this at least a day in advance to allow the skin to dry out in fridge - essential in my book for crisp crackling.  I only remembered at 1:30pm to prep my pork!  OK, now, do I want to keep it plain like I would for a Roast Leg of Pork English style?  Or aromatically flavoured with Chinese 5-spice flavour?  Couldn't decide so I did both! 

I slow roasted the pork on a moderate heat in the oven so the meat would be tender - belly meat can be a bit chewy otherwise.  I think the slow-roast enabled the fat to render out too.  Last part of the cooking process was to blast the skin so it would crisp up.  It wasn't puffy like the Chinese crispy pork, but still had a satisfactory crunch to it.

Here's what I did:

Crunchy Slow-Roasted Pork Belly

1.2kg belly pork (with skin and bone)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 tsp rock salt
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 eating apple (I used braeburn)

I didn't have time or inclination to bone out the rib bones so I just scored a deep (1.5cm) cut alongside each of the rib bones on the flesh side of the pork.  This creates channels in which you rub the flavouring into.
Using a very, very sharp pointed knife, I scored the skin of the belly pork as close as I could all over.  The scoring just went in one direction, no diamonds, no cross-hatching.  My mum used to stab the skin with a multitude of small pin-prick holes using a skewer and quite frankly, I didn't have the tools or time.  I think that's the Chinese method.  I use the English way of scoring and it works fine for me.  I put a small cooling rack into the empty sink then put the pork skin-side up on the rack.  I then poured 1 pint of boiled water over the skin of the pork.  This is a Chinese trick I think to prepare the skin - I think it helps it dry out for better roasting.  After that I patted the pork dry with kitchen paper.  The hot water opens up the skin slightly anyway and you can see the score marks.

I put the pork skin-side up on a plate uncovered into the fridge until I was ready to roast.  Usually I would leave it overnight. 

Half an hour before roasting, I took the pork out of the fridge.  Turning the meat onto the skin side, I mixed 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2tsp 5-spice powder in a small dish and then used this to sprinkle into the grooves of the meat.  I gave the grooves a good rub to distribute the flavouring evenly.

I used a pestle and mortar to grind the salt pepper and oregano to powder and flipping the pork back so it was skin side up, used this to rub into the skin of the pork.  I left it under a food umbrella next to an open window. 

After 30 minutes, I patted the skin dry with kitchen paper.  Salt on the skin draws out excess water before roasting so you get a good crunchy crackling.

I sliced the apple (removing any core) and laid it on the bottom of a roasting tray.  The pork sat on top of the apple slices and I roasted this at gas mark 5 for 1hr 30minutes. 

When the time was up, I drained the meat juices and fat into a jug for later.  I cranked the heat up to gas mark 7 and put the pork back in for a 30 minute high heat blast.  This is my sure-fire way of getting the crunchy crackling I adore.  It saves having to put the pork under the grill and toasting the skin to puff it up (which I inevitably burn!).

I strained the fat off the roasted juices and used the remainder along with the mashed apple slices to make a roast gravy.

This half is tomorrow night's dinner
- I plan to serve it Chinese Style with plain rice,
spiced soy sauce and some vegetables.
On serving I showed restraint and only carved half the meat (I was feeling greedy and wanted more!) for the two of us for dinner and serve it along side mashed potato and steamed shredded greens. 

Oh, and home-made apple sauce!  I find the jar stuff too syrupy sweet and not appley enough.  It's simple enough to peel core and dice a bramley apple, plonk in a small pan, splash some water add 1-2 tbsp sugar and cook slowly 'til it's as mushy/lumpy as you like it.  I like it mashy with apple chunks and a nice sweet sharp tang!  I made my apple sauce from 1 small bramley and ate it all myself!  Hubbs is not keen on fruit with savoury food.

This is hubbs dinner - see?  No apple sauce for him means all the more for me!
This is my plate - see the big dollop of tangy apple sauce? Mmmm!

Our Roasted Pork Dinner for two! 
(& left-overs for tomorrow's dinner!)

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