Yes, you can tell I’ve gone all Paleo again, with these meat-centered dishes. But without getting all evangelical on you about it (I passed that phase already), it’s just really working for me in a way that no other way of eating has. So it’s been fun to look up some new recipes and try some fun things out, like the plantain “buns” I made last night for some Cubano sandwich-style burgers. Yummy—but it was a lesson in FOLLOWING directions. Sometimes I make assumptions that just aren’t correct. I have to remember that people have researched these recipes….der.
But this is a dish I’ve put together using a few different recipes, and it’s starting to be my go-to dish for when company comes over, even though there’s a lot of slicing and dicing involved. But the best thing is that you can scale that part down, and throwing the pork in the slow cooker is just so easy.
And if you do eat meat and haven’t tried putting pork belly in your slow cooker yet, you’re in for a nice surprise. It’s delicious! The only problem is that you might find yourself thinking, “Do we really need to have company tonight? There doesn’t really look like enough for four…maybe we should cancel…” with the little voice on your shoulder saying “Eat it yourself! Tell them you’re virulently ill! Close the shades! The neighbors will never know why you canceled on them!” Thankfully we didn’t, because it was a very fun night with Steve, Sara and their fun little terrors—I mean “boys”—Ben and Zach. We’ve never had someone strip at the table before, so thanks, Zach, for that first!
But it’s too good not to share, and since guests keep raving about it, I’m going to keep cooking it. And a great side note: Don’t throw out the cooking liquid from the pork. It turns into a wonderful broth for a pho-style soup! You can just freeze it like any other stock and keep it until that chilly day comes up that’s just calling for some warming soup.
Vegetarians and vegans can sub some delicious, soy-marinated tofu or tempeh for the pork and use a replacement for the fish sauce in the dressing (here’s a great recipe for “Not Fish Sauce”) and this will still be a crowd-pleasing, knock-out dish.
For the Pork Belly:
3-4 lbs. pork belly
1 Tbs. sugar
6 cloves of garlic (smashed)
6 thick slices of ginger
4 whole star anise
1 tsp. of whole peppercorns
2 whole red chillies (optional)
3 Tbs shao xing cooking wine, white wine or sherry
1/2 cup of coconut aminos (or if you’re not Paleo, soy sauce, or 1/4 cup of dark soy sauce)
1 Tbs. almond oil
2 cups of chicken stock (homemade if you’ve got it, otherwise low sodium)
Water (just enough to almost cover the pork belly)
Place everything in the slow cooker, and cook on high for 4-6 hours.
Just before service, cut the cooked pork belly into portions, then place on a cookie sheet. Place under the broiler and watch carefully. You basically want to crisp up the fat on the top of the pork belly. Don’t let it burn! Serve immediately on top of the salad, topped with toasted, chopped cashew nuts and crispy shallots.
++You can make this salad as big as you like, and add/subtract as many of these ingredients as you like. I put them all in, but it’s your choice!
Mung bean sprouts
Sliced green onions
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Thinly sliced carrots
Thinly sliced yellow, red or orange bell pepper
Equal amounts of mint, Thai basil* and cilantro, chopped finely
*Use regular basil if you can’t find Thai
++Double this if you are making a big salad for four or more people.
1 hot Thai chilli (seeded and chopped fine)
1 large clove garlic (peeled and chopped fine, or grated)
1 tsp. sugar
1 ½ Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 ½ Tbs. lime juice
1 ½ Tbs. Thai fish sauce (nam pla) (or nuoc nam)
1 ½ Tbs. almond oil
½ medium shallot, chopped fine
Mix together and let sit for about 30 minutes before serving. Keeps well for about one week in the fridge.
Take about a half-pound of large shallots and slice them carefully on the thinnest setting of a mandoline. Heat up coconut oil or another oil that’s good for high temperature cooking (PLEASE never never use canola oil!) and deep fry the shallots, in batches. Watch these carefully, as you think nothing’s happening for about 5-10 minutes, then BAM! They’re getting all brown and crispy in seconds flat. Scoop out with a slotted spoon or strainer spoon onto paper towels. Let cool and sprinkle over salad.