By Paul Suplee
Oh, the folly of this weather. As much as I love winter, now they are telling us that Sunday’s temperatures will drop from 55 to 10 in a matter of hours. Personally, I find this to be a bit nonsensical, but it reminds me of the day this past autumn on which the temperature dropped from 95 to 55 in an afternoon. Enough is enough. Well, I guess it’s time to fire up some braised, hearty goods to keep warm.
The fact remains that I don’t live in Florida yet, so I must submit myself to the changing seasons. Truth be told, I am happy to have the seasons; a primary reason I moved back here from Southern California. Well, that and a few other reasons, but I’ll save that for another day.
In SoCal, there are two seasons: hot and warm. Every morning is sunny, and every day is fairly temperate with a few exceptions in the summertime. The Pacific is always chilly to brisk, and even on a 95-degree day, you might need a spring suit to spend more than an hour or two surfing. There simply is no variation, no invigorating thunderstorms, or leaves falling off the trees. Monotony.
I remember coming home shortly after getting out of the Marines in 1991 to visit family. They picked me up at BWI and as we headed back to the shore, I sat in awe as I watched the black storm cloud on the horizon that was getting ready to rip across the Chesapeake. There is something so invigorating about fast-hitting storms. Maybe it was the countless times that we would be on a boat in the middle of the bay when one of those bastards would pop up and make us batten down the hatches and hang on for a 30-minute joy ride. Yes, it was often frightening, as no boater likes a good squall, but there is a calm before and after said event that always made me appreciate things in a different light.
In California, that really didn’t happen. Sure, there were brush fires, and we had our fair share of those. In fact, I remember waking up in the squad bay at TOW Company, 1st Tank Battalion to an early reveille to see the hill-line next to las Flores aglow with 30-foot flames dancing on the skyline. We bugged out for the morning and that fire was contained rather quickly.
Then there are the earthquakes, like the one we had off the coast here on Tuesday, with the exception that you actually felt the earthquakes in SoCal. Otherwise, there was no variety in the seasons, and I’m glad that I can at least appreciate them here.
And when the weather is this nasty, it is time for hearty stews, braised meats and fatty goods as we stay warm through this icy tempest. It’s the least that we can do as we inch our way towards spring.
Stout-Braised Pork Belly
1.5 pound Fresh pork belly, skin removed
1 quart Chicken or pork stock
1 medium White onion, cut into large chunks
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. Black peppercorns
3 shallots, halved
2 fresh bay leaves
Salt, to taste
12 ounces Guinness Extra Stout
1.5 cup Vegetable hash (Recipe follows)
baby arugula, as needed
- Heat a cast iron pan until just below smoking (assuming that you have oiled your pan after the last use, it will smoke if too hot)
- Score the belly on the skin/fatty side about ¼ -inch deep in a crisscross fashion with the about ½-inch apart
- Salt the belly and place the scored side down in the pan. You do not need to add extra oil to the pan as fat will render out as you sear it
- When the belly has a nice color and crisp to it, turn it over and cook for another 5 minutes
- Remove from the pan and place in a roasting or baking pan with all of the ingredients up to and including the Guinness
- Place in a 350F oven for 3-4 hours (ovens vary), or until the belly is incredibly tender when pierced with a knife or fork
- Remove the belly carefully so as to avoid it falling apart and strain the liquid, discarding the vegetables
- Cut the belly into equal portions and when ready to serve, heat your cast iron pan
- Sear the scored side of the belly until crispy. If you refrigerated your pork belly for later service, merely reheat it in an oven before this step
- Serve the belly atop some broth, baby arugula and the vegetable hash
makes about 1 quart
3 strips bacon
1/2 White onion, julienne
2 red potatoes, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 tomato (preferably green), diced
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1/4 cup Cider vinegar
Chicken stock, as needed
- Cut the bacon into little pieces and heat on medium in a pan until crispy
- Drain the fat and add the onion and potatoes, cooking for 12 minutes
- Add carrot and celery and cook for another 5
- Add remaining ingredients and cook until you have a nice, caramelized hash
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
- Use immediately or cool and refrigerate for future use