Citrus Salad with Slow-Cooked Pork Belly and Balsamic Onions

I probably don’t have to tell you that pork belly is all the rage. It shows up on menus these days as frequently as a hamburger does, more often than the now-abandoned molten chocolate cake. It’s as if we’ve all just realized where our beloved bacon comes from and found out that we could justify eating it as our entire meal. Score!

It seems like every cookbook I have has a recipe or six for The Belly, so when I saw that my favorite butcher had some in his case, I snagged it. (And for cheap.)

It’s a project that takes two days but doesn’t actually require any skill. The pork belly cures all day (or overnight) in a mixture of sugar and salt with a few spices, and then braises in aromatic broth until super tender. I called upon my trusty slow cooker for this job, though you could also cook it in a 275 degree oven for seven hours or so. Then you chill the pork belly in its braising liquid until you’re ready to use it—in pork buns or over grits or like this, crisped and served as a luscious topping for a tangy onion-and-citrus salad.

By soaking the onions in a balsamic vinaigrette while you prepare the salad, you’re basically quick-pickling them, as well as infusing the dressing with onion flavor. Toss with some greens and citrus segments, and you’ve got the perfect foil for the rich pork belly.

It’s a decadent, elegant meal, fancy enough for a trendy restaurant, but if you eat it in your sweatpants while sitting in front of the television I won’t blame you.

Citrus Salad with Slow-Cooked Pork Belly and Balsamic Onions
serves 3 or 4 as a main course

For onions and dressing:
2 small red onions
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper

For salad:
One large head lettuce (oak leaf or romaine, or try two bunches of arugula)
2 blood oranges
Slow-cooked pork belly (recipe below)

Slice onions in paper thin rings (or half-rings.) Place in a cereal-size bowl. Add balsamic, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and mustard, then stir to coat. Let sit, stirring occasionally, so that the dressing infuses the onions at least 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wash lettuce greens and place in large salad bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut peel and pith from oranges and slice into small segments. Add to salad bowl.

Slice prepared pork belly into 1 to 2-inch strips. Heat a small amount of oil in a large cast iron skillet and add pork belly. Cook until sizzling and brown, turning occasionally. Don’t crowd the pan—cook in two batches if necessary. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Toss salad with oranges, adding onions and dressing and tossing to coat. Divide salad onto plate and top with warm pork belly.

Slow-Cooked Pork Belly
inspired by Michael Symon

2 pounds fresh pork belly, skin removed (ask your friendly butcher to do it for you—mine was bone-in, but that’s not necessary)

For the cure:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
grated zest of one meyer lemon or orange
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, coriander, red pepper, zest, and togarashi. Place the pork belly in a gallon-sized plastic bag and coat the belly with the mixture. Pat mixture into sides of the pork belly, refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

For the braise:
5 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 bay leaf
1 purple onion, quartered

Place pork belly in slow cooker and add all other braise ingredients. Cook on low for 12 hours. Meat should be tender when tested with a fork. Remove meat from slow cooker and refrigerate in its braising liquid until ready to use—overnight is fine but not necessary.

In braising, citrus, pork, salad, slow cooker

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