Mostly I cook the things I crave. Occasionally I cook out of "necessity". And sometimes I set out to create the perfect bite of food. What makes the perfect bite one might ask? It begins with contrasting flavors and textures. Crisp complimenting luscious smoothness, creamy contrasting a bit of crunch, sweet offsetting salty, spicy playing against mild. Whenever you can get your food to tease your palette with opposing yet complimentary flavors and textures, you are making people happy ... Like Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentis caliber of chefs happy. Yeah. Them. You might have heard of them.
So what did I prepare for you today? Y'all, this is super yummy. I've made the perfect bite for you. Okay, "bite" might be a stretch. Maybe if you are a prehistoric creature with a gargantuan mouth it is A bite. But you get where I am going with this... riiiight? I certainly hope so! Geez America, you cant be that dumb? The tender pork belly with this persimmon sake glaze I have created is so good. I could eat that as "the perfect bite" (for real) all on its own. But I didn't stop there. I contrasted the rich and luscious pork belly with a fresh little salad. Ahi, Asian pears, Chinese peas, cilantro and Thai red chilis, tossed in a light dressing. And it is all sitting on top of a beautifully crispy tostada. I am pretty pleased with myself here. And that is a good thing. Because my relatively obscure food blog will hopefully gain some traction here. And I am cooking this dish for a demo tomorrow to promote this season of Food Network Star.
If you are here since you watched that demo, hi, welcome! I ramble a lot. But I cook good food. If you're here because you know me, then you already know this.
This dish, new in its entirety to me, already went through a few revisions in its inception today. (Version one, below)
First of all, I think I made up persimmon sake jam. Maybe not, but in my world I did. When I first did this dish, the jam was a base. Then I thought, what if it was a glaze. Amy, you're a genius. It was far superior as a glaze. (I will tell you what though, Asian flavor vibes aside; this jam would go so well with goat cheese or ricotta on a crustini.) I could also write you a novel about my love affair with pork belly. Trust me, you are going to be super happy about the culinary choices I have made for you today. If you want to buy me a restaurant, a food truck or some boobs as a result, I would be super grateful.
Makes 15-20 Mini Tostadas (or If you want you could make tacos with the pork belly and ahi salad... because guess what, we did for dinner. Also an amazing decision on my part.)
(on order and grouped)
3 lbs of pork belly
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
pinch of cayenne
1 cup sake
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
1 lbs sashimi quality ahi
1 Asian pear
1 1/2 cups Chinese peas (like snow peas)
5 Thai red chilis
1 cup cilantro
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chili garlic paste (or sriracha)
flour tortillas (Depending on the size of your tortillas, you can get 3 circle cookie cutter shapes out of it. So the number of tortillas that you need will vary depending on the tortillas you select. Also, I did my first batch with corn tortillas, and honestly, the flavor over powered the rest of the dish. Stick with flour tortillas, please.)
peanut oil for frying (about 1 to 2 cups, depending on the skillet size)
For the Pork Belly:
1. Begin by removing the skin from the pork belly (if it is still attached). Use a sharp knife to cut as close to the skin line as possible, you want to keep as much of the fat as you can.
2. In a small bowl mix salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne. Stir with a fork until well mixed.
3. Lay your pork belly down on a silicone mat on top of a baking sheet.
4. Evenly sprinkle the mixture over the pork belly. Feel free to roll the pork belly strips a bit to grab up the sugar/salt mixture that has fallen in between the strips.
5. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and bake the pork belly for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 225 degrees and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. My pork belly came already sliced into 1" wide strips. If yours is a larger, then you will want to adjust the cooking time. (aka, add more)
6. When your pork belly is cool enough to touch, cut it on a bias into 3/4 inch pieces.
7. While your pork belly is cooking, go head and begin your persimmon "jam". If you have a quality blender, like a Vitamix, you do not need to remove the skin. If you are working with a basic blender, a) upgrade your blender and b) remove the skin. If you are using a Vitamix then you pretty much just need to remove the leafy area.
8. Add the persimmons and 1 cup of sake to your Vitamix and blend until smooth (30-60 seconds)
9. Add the puree to a large pot or deep pan.
10. Bring to a low boil for 10 minutes.
11. Stir in lemon juice, honey, sugar and a pinch of cayenne and reduce heat.
12. Cook the mixture down for 20-30 minutes on a medium heat, stirring frequently.
13. Add 2 tbsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water to a separate bowl and whisk together with a fork until well blended. Slowly stir the corn starch mixture into the persimmon sauce and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so.
14. In a large bowl, toss the sliced pork belly with 1-2 cups of the persimmon "jam". Coat each peace generously, but don't have the meat drowning in the sauce.
15. In a nonstick pan, cook the pork belly till is it warm again and the persimmon jam has begun to caramelize and brown around the meat. This will take 5-7 minutes or so.
16. When cool, transfer the remaining "jam" to a mason jar or lidded storage container for later use.
17. In a cast iron skillet, add roughly 1 cup of peanut oil. You will want it to come up about 1" off of the bottom of the pan.
18. Cut out your tortillas into small(ish) circles, or whatever. If you are making this a normal sized taco, obviously skip this step. If you want a tostada, do it.
19. Warm up the oil until it begins to sizzle and add the cut out pieces of tortilla to the pan.
20. Shallow fry roughly 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.
21. Remove and place on a paper towel to cool.
22. Begin making the ahi salad y pretty much slicing everything thinly.
23. Thinly slice the peas on a bias, the Asian pear into small strips, the red chilis into very thin circles (until you heat where the seeds are more concentrated) and the ahi into strips that are as thin as you can make them.
24. Coarsely chop some cilantro. Add everything into a large lidded mixing bowl.
25. In a small separate bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili garlic paste and honey.
26. Add that mixture to your ahi salad and toss gently.
27. Plate the toastada with 2-3 pieces of pork belly, and then a few tbsp of the ahi salad.