Pairings: Savor succulent pork belly alongside this zin
If our Wine of the Week, Acorn 2015 Heritage Vines Alegrîa Vineyards Zinfandel ($50) could sing, it would be a gospel song, something bold and vigorous that makes you want to get up and dance, or at least sway to the melody.
“Oh, Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers comes to mind as a perfect audio expression of this dynamic wine. The wine is as layered as the song and as exuberant.
Flavors are organized around a core of fruit suggestive of black plums, Bing cherries, black raspberries and ripe boysenberries. Within all this beautiful fruit are threads of sweet spices, white and black peppercorns, and notes of cocoa, dark chocolate, fresh coffee, rich topsoil and a delightful whisper of licorice root.
At the table, the wine is ideal with winter stews and braises. Venison stew, braised sausages, lamb shanks braised in red wine, and bison chili Colorado are among the wine’s best companions. Root vegetables, especially sweet potatoes and carrots, are good choices, too, as are winter squashes and dark braising greens, such as kales.
For today’s recipe, I chose two of the wine’s most beguiling attributes – flavors of coffee and licorice – as inspiration and used both in a slightly sweet braising sauce for succulent pork belly. It is an indulgent dish that encourages the wine to soar into its very best self.
Braised Pork Belly with Sweet Spices, Pea Shoots & Mint
Makes 3 to 4 servings
1-1 ¼ pound pork belly, in one piece, skin on
2 slices fresh ginger, each about ¼ inch thick, halved
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
3 cups rich chicken stock
½ cup strongly brewed coffee, preferably medium roast
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 2-inch piece of licorice root, optional
2 teaspoons whole white peppercorns
2 cardamom pods, cracked
1 2-inchpiece of cinnamon
1 star anise
2 juniper berries
2 allspice berries
1-2 whole cloves
3 tablespoons sugar, preferably organic cane sugar
4 ounces fresh pea shoots
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
¼ cup spearmint leaves, torn into small pieces
The night before preparing the pork belly, set it on a clean work surface and rub it all over with the ginger, pressing firmly to release the ginger’s juice. Season all over with salt and black pepper, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving it.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Set a heavy, ovenproof pan that has a lid over a high flame and when it is hot, add the belly, skin side down, and sear for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the skin takes on some color and shrinks. Turn and sear for 2 minutes more. Transfer the belly to a plate or a piece of waxed paper.
Pour the stock, coffee, and wine into the pan, add the garlic cloves, licorice root, if using, peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon, anise, juniper berries, allspice berries and clove. Season with a teaspoon or so of kosher salt.
Return the pork belly to the pan, cover the pan and set on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 2½ to 3 hours, until the pork belly is completely tender and there is no resistance when speared with a fork.
Remove from the oven and let the pork belly cool in the liquid for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer the belly to a plate, return the pan to a medium-high flame, stir in the sugar and simmer the liquid until it is reduced by about two-thirds. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and strain into a gravy cup or glass jar to settle.
When settled — there will be an inch or so of clear fat on top of the pan juices — use a small ladle to skim off and discard the fat. Keep the sauce hot.
To serve, divide the pea shoots among individual pasta bowls or plates. Working quickly, cut the pork belly into ½-inch thick slices and arrange them on top of the pea shoots.
Drizzle sauce over everything, season with a little salt, scatter with sesame seeds and mint and enjoy right away.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org