Shrimp, Braised Pork Belly with Orange Gastrique
A few years ago, pork belly was, for some reason, very popular in fine restaurants. And while it seems to be out of favor more recently, it’s still a very interesting meat to work with. This recipe combines braised pork belly seasoned with five-spice powder, ginger and garlic with sauteed shrimp, topped by a sweet/sour orange gastrique. It makes for a terrific appetizer for six to eight people or a light meal for four. Add a few sauteed pea pods or crisp field greens for color and a bit of remoulade for dipping the shrimp and you’re all set.
What I like about this dish is that it combines a multitude of textures and complimentary flavors that somehow come together into a delicious whole. It also looks beautiful on a plate. It also demonstrates one of the many uses for gastriques, which can turn many simple dishes into something special.
- 1 lb. pork belly, boned, with skin on
- 1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
- A pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Peanut or other high smoke point oil
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallot
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- Juice and zest from one orange
- 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails on
- Season the pork belly with the five-spice powder, salt and pepper.
- Heat a large deep saute pan (or dutch oven) and add 1-2 Tbsp. oil. When the oil is near smoking, place the pork belly, skin up, in the pan and cook until the meat of the pork belly is well browned. Flip the pork belly and cook 3-4 minutes skin-side down. Remove to a cutting board and remove the saute pan from the heat.
- Carefully remove the skin from the pork belly with a sharp knife and reserve.
- Return the pan to the heat and add the garlic, shallots and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and add the pork belly back to the pan. Simmer on low heat in the liquid for 60 to 90 minutes.
- While the pork belly is braising, prepare the gastrique by putting the sugar and 3 Tbsp. water in a 1 quart sauce pan over moderate heat. Stir to moisten the sugar well (it should be the consistency of wet sand) and let it come to a boil. In 4-5 minutes, the sugar will begin to caramelize. When it reaches a nice golden brown color, remove from heat and add the vinegar all at once. (Use care, the liquid hitting the very hot sugar will sputter quite a bit and the sugar will appear to crystallize.)
- Return the sugar-vinegar solution to the heat and stir until all the crystallized sugar remelts then add the orange juice. Reduce the heat and let the gastrique simmer and reduce to a thick syrupy consistency. Set aside and rewarm just before using.
- Cut the reserved pork belly skin into strips and fry them in enough hot oil to just cover, until they are very crisp. Drain and set aside on a paper towel.
- A few minutes before serving, remove the pork belly from the braising liquid and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and quickly saute in a tablespoon or two of oil until they are pink and just opaque.
- Assemble the dish by placing the pork belly on the plate and topping the the sauteed shrimp, some of the orange zest, some of the fried pork skin strips and several spoonfuls of the gastrique.
- Serve immediately.