Braised Pork Belly, Coffee, Orange, Chocolate, Black Pepper

I have an old friend visiting for a few days, so posting has been light.   Tonight we collaborated on a dish and produced a nice outcome.

Here we have pork belly, which was brined overnight in whisky, maple syrup, and dijon mustard.  Then braised for 6 hours in orange juice.  The meat itself is finished with a saute.  I added half a cup of additional orange juice and a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar to the braising liquid and reduced to just a sauce consistency.  The acid and syrupy-citrus sweetness really helped cut some of the richness. The dish is garnished with a coffee-chocolate fondant tuile made from isomalt and glucose, which is also dusted with fresh ground black pepper.

Every aspect of this dish supports the rich succulence of the pork belly, which has been infused with the flavor of oranges.  I really need to comment on the use of coffee and chocolate though.  Not only do these flavors pair well together, but the black pepper on the tuile is complementary as well.   The really great part is how the coffee melds with the meaty aspects of this dish without clashing with the sweet/acid/floral flavors brought by the use of oranges.  I think that while coffee is often associated with the sweet/cold side of things, it has a tremendous potential in savory/hot dishes as well.  Some ideas are to use coffee as a braising liquid, or to cook something like short ribs en sous vide with coffee grounds, letting the natural juices of the meat infuse the coffee into the flesh.  Another idea would be to use a pressure cooker so to preserve the coffee's flavor with a shortened cook time.  I think the chocolate needs to play a background role in all this, if it is used at all, but it is a really nice touch that served to highlight the coffee.  Also, like in some hot chocolate preparations, the pepper works nicely to add a spicy kick to the whole thing.

I'm sure I'll be playing with this dish in the future, trying to bring forth the flavors more clearly, and balancing out the flavors as well.   As it stands, I think this dish is a nice start.

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