Cider-Braised Pork Belly with Cauliflower Puree

Pork belly is a richly flavored cut of meat that lends itself to slow braising. This sweet and savory recipe uses aromatic vegetables, apple cider and spices for the braise and a cider-reduction glaze to coat the pork just before serving. To complement the meat, we made a simple cauliflower purée, caramelized onions and oven-roasted carrots (recipes follow).

  • Ingredients:
  • 4 lbs pork belly
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the broiler and position the rack about 8 inches below the heat.

Score the fat side of the pork belly 1/4-inch deep in a cross-hatch pattern and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Place on a foiled lined broiler pan and broil, fat side up until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn over and broil for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300°F.

Heat the cider and 1 cup of the chicken broth to boiling in a dutch oven. Remove from the heat and add the cinnamon, allspice, cloves, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Stir to combine and add the pork belly, fat side up. Add enough additional chicken broth to bring the liquid level just below the top of the pork belly.

Cover and bake for 3-1/2 hours, removing to baste the top of the meat every hour. After 3-1/2 hours, uncover and continue cooking for 1 more hour.

While the pork belly is braising for the last hour, bring the cider, sugar, cinnamon and ginger to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened to a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the pork belly from the oven, discard the aromatics and braising liquid and slice the meat into 1-1/2 inch wide pieces. Heat the cider glaze over medium heat and add the pork belly, two pieces at a time, turning with tongs to coat thoroughly with the glaze.

To serve, plate a portion of Cauliflower Purée (see below), top with a spoonful of Caramelized Onions (instructions follow) and a piece of pork belly. Garnish with Roasted Carrots (recipe follows) and some chopped parsley.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Caramelized Onions
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, sliced and separated into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover the pan and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring 3 or 4 times during the process. Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium and add the salt. Continue cooking, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently and loosening any browned bits that may accumulate on the bottom of the pan. Add the apple cider and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are nicely caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes longer. Keep warm until ready to serve.

  • Cauliflower Purée
  • 8 cups cauliflower florets (2 medium heads fresh or 2 16-ounce bags frozen)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Place the water and salt in a large pot fitted with a steamer rack. Bring to a boil, add the cauliflower florets, cover and steam until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, add the butter, cream, salt and pepper. Purée with an electric hand blender until smooth and silky (you can also use a food processor or blender). Add the nutmeg, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.

  • Oven-Roasted Carrots
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.