Monday, February 28, 2011

Pork Belly Tacos

This past weekend I set out to recreate a great dish: the pork belly tacos at Big Star in Wicker Park. I went to the great butcher shop The Butcher & Larder to pick up about 3.25 pounds of pork belly:

I then cut the belly up into 12 squares and put a Mexican spice rub on them before letting them sit for about a half an hour to get to room temperature and absorb the spices a little bit: 

I chopped up some celery, carrots, and onions for my mirepoix: 

I then seared the pork belly in my clay pot: 

In the meantime, I started soaking some black beans that morning to be served as a side dish with the tacos: 

I then put the pork belly in the oven at 350* for about 3 hours, flipping and stirring the contents every half hour or so. After three hours it came out looking like the following: 

I removed the belly, then strained the braising liquid multiple times before reducing it for about 30-40 minutes: 

After the mixture reduced, I cut away some of the very fatty parts of the pork, and pulled out the flavorful meat and placed it back in the pot. I cooked/fried the pork in the reduced liquid which really crisped up the meat: 

Meanwhile, I put the black beans in the oven for about 2 hours to cook: 

I put the pulled pork on a fresh Whole Foods bakery tortilla and served it with queso fresco and cilantro, with the black beans on the side: 

The Verdict:

These where some great tacos. They didn't turn out the same as Big Star, whose belly comes out essentially in cubes and more fried. That doesn't mean these weren't fact the pork belly meat was incredible and very tender and you don't really need to put too much in toppings on it as the meat is really the "star" of the show. A possible idea for next time though would be to put some grilled pineapple on it like another one of Big Star's tacos. I also want to experiment more with Pork Belly and make a few other recipes with it. 

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