Before the opening of The Publican a few days ago, exec chef Brian Huston sat down with The Decider for a little Q&A; and we Quote Of The Dayed an excerpt in which he told us what wouldn’t be on the menu: “Bacon Candy,” which would take too long to make.
MP commenter clay h noted that he would totally wait 30 minutes for bacon candy, and we have to admit: so would we. But until it shows up on the menu at The Publican, what’s a hungry girl (or boy) to do?
Make your own, kids. Make your own.
By “bacon candy” here we don’t mean the quick-n-dirty delight that is bacon baked in brown sugar (and, if you’re adventurous, some cinnamon and cayenne). That’s candied bacon, and we’re drawing a strict word-order distinction. When Brian Huston talks about “bacon candy,” on the other hand, he’s referring to something more often known as bacon or pork rillons, a Loire valley specialty in which pork belly is roasted in its own fat.
The preparation method is fairly straightforward and tends not to vary too much from one recipe to the other; given that, the quality of your ingredients is what’s really going to make this dish shine. Spring on the highest-quality pork belly you can find — try a local farmer’s market or the Paulina Meat Market. If you use raw pork belly, the flavor will be more true, but smoked slab bacon is also delicious.
3lbs pork belly or slab bacon, cut in 1-1/2 inch cubes
fresh-ground black pepper
a few sprigs of thyme
5-10 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 bottle dry red wine (preferably from the Loire valley, if you care about these things, but any decent red will do)
a large skillet or saute pan
an ovenproof roasting dish or dutch oven, just large enough to fit the cubes in a single layer
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place your skillet over medium heat. While the skillet warms, rub the cubes of belly all over with salt and pepper. Add them to the heated skillet in batches, being careful not to crowd, browning all sides before transferring the cubes to your roasting pan.
When all the cubes are browned and nestled in the pan, stud with the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs and add wine to halfway up the sides of the cubes. Add water just to cover meat and roast, uncovered, for 60 minutes — the liquid should evaporate quickly, and the pork should be cooking in their own rendered fat. Every 8-10 minutes use the tongs to turn the cubes over in the pan.
When the rillons are finished, pour off any accumulated liquid (you can reserve it if you like — it’s delicious) and either slice the rillons, or serve them whole. You can share them with your friends, if you are able to demonstrate that much selfless behavior. We have never succeeded at this.
The rillons keep in an airtight container for about three days. If you can pace yourself.
The Publican [MenuPages]
[Photo: caramelized pork belly at New York’s Daniel, via ulterior epicure’s Flickr]