This pork belly with a sticky pomegranate glaze is a gorgeous and festive dish that really packs in the flavor. The delicious sauce is made with a reduction of pomegranate juice and traditional holiday spices like cinnamon and allspice. You can make it in advance and warm it up in the oven - another benefit when you're cooking for a crowd over the holidays.
It's just the right recipe now because our pomegranate trees are laden with fruit. Mostly I use the arils (seed pods) for juice, and freeze some to toss in salads and other dishes, and this recipe is another great way to use the arils. For this recipe you may find it simpler to buy pomegranate juice unless you have an abundance of pomegranates on hand to juice - about 30 or 40.
Pork belly is all the rage these days and recipes abound. I've avoided it because of the fat content even though I'm never averse to the occasional delicious bit of pork fat. Guanciale is one of my favorite ingredients and it’s more fat than not. I use it all the time in classic Italian pasta dishes like carbonara and amatriciana.
This year we are doing more of an Italian style Thanksgiving and so that means a whole roasted pig instead of turkey. And let's face it: all the fixings and side dishes that are perfect with roast turkey are also perfect with roast pig. Everyone is excited about this main course Thanksgiving menu variation but maybe aren't quite ready to roast a whole suckling pig. So why not choose a delicious and gorgeous pork dish that's easy to make and at the same time super festive?
Pork belly with a sticky pomegranate glaze is a great dish when you're picking pomegranates from the tree in fall and early winter, but honestly it's a great dish year round! So if you have year round access to pomegranate arils and pomegranate juice go for it!
I found a recipe for pomegranate and pork belly on the bbcgoodfood.com website, started from there and added a few of my own recipe tweaks.
Pork belly (pancetta di suino in Italian) comes in cuts about 3 to 4 centimeters thick, and roughly 14 cm wide. (length varies depending on how much pork belly you want to cook). Decide how much you need; about 1 kg is perfect for six people. Have your butcher slice the pork belly width-wise into 3 to 4 cm wide slices. Then cut each slice in half so you end up with pork belly pieces that are roughly 3 cm thick, 4 cm wide and 7 cm long – in other words manageable, portion-sized pieces. Remember: each pork belly cut may vary somewhat in size and you don't have to worry about absolute precision when you or your butcher cut up the portions.
- A heavy bottom oven proof baking pan with a lid, large enough to hold all the pork in one layer (or a bit more than a layer). I suggest a Le Creuset pan or Emile Henri pan. Both are oven to table.
- A juicer for the pomegranate juice.
For the pork belly:
- 1 kg pork belly cut into roughly 3 cm thick, 4 cm wide and 7 cm long pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the glaze:
- ⅔ cup pomegranate arils seed pods
- 400 mL pomegranate juice
- 1 medium lemon juiced
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 piece two inch long cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 handful fresh parsley minced
For the pomegranate juice and arils (seeds):
- You may find it simpler to buy pomegranate juice unless you have an abundance of pomegranates on hand to juice, about 30 or 40.
- Use a wooden spoon to firmly rap each pomegranate on all sides of the surface. This will help to loosen the arils.
- Fill a sink with cold water.
- Gently pull apart each pomegranate and remove the arils from the white inner pulp. The arils will sink and the white pulp will float to the top.
- Throw away the pomegranate skin and pulp and set the arils aside in a bowl.
- Repeat this process with each pomegranate until you have enough for the juice and the reserved arils.
- Place the arils in a juicer and juice until you have 400 milliliters.
For the glaze:
- Place the pomegranate juice in a large bowl and add the lemon juice, honey, red wine vinegar, cinnamon stick, allspice and salt.
- Whisk together and set aside.
Cook the pork belly:
- Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300°F
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil in the baking pan.
- Brown the pork belly on all sides until just turning golden, without overcrowding, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Pour the glaze ingredients over the pork, cover the pan and bake for one hour.
- It's a good idea to check the pork every 20 minutes or so to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom of the pan or burning.
- After an hour take the pan out of the oven, remove the pork with the slotted spoon and set aside.
- There will be a lot of fat in the sauce and if you wish you can put the sauce in a dish in the refrigerator until the fat floats to the surface and congeals.
- Remove most of the fat and discard.
- Return the sauce to the baking pan.
- Cook over a low flame until the sauce reduces and thickens.
- Raise the oven temperature to 170°C / 340°F.
- Return the pork to the baking dish and place in the oven.
- Bake for an additional 45 minutes until the pork is tender and coming off the bone.
- (While the pork is cooking finely mince the parsley and set aside.)
- Check the baking pan every 15 minutes to make sure there is still enough sauce in the pan and the pork doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add a bit of water if necessary.
- After 45 minutes remove the pan from the oven and place stove top.
- The sauce should now be a thick and sticky glaze.
- If the glaze still needs to reduce further you can do this stove top over a low flame, with the lid removed.
- Add additional salt to the glaze, to taste.
- Pork Belly with a Sticky Pomegranate Glaze is a perfect make ahead holiday dish!
- Serve it right in the baking pan or remove the pork to a serving platter.
- Sprinkle with the reserved pomegranate arils and minced parsley.
Cool the pork belly to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
Bring the pork belly to room temperature, then warm stove top over a low flame before serving.
If you're looking for a few holiday recipes then try this Radicchio Ravioli with Chestnut Cream and Sizzled Pork Jowl.
And there's no better holiday breakfast treat than homemade Glazed Cinnamon Rolls.
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