Monday, June 14, 2010

Latent memory

I recently realized that sometimes things that you eat do not affect you until days, week, even years down the road. My memory isn't generally the most reliable but if it's food related, it's probably stored in brain to be retrieved with the right trigger.

This happened recently which led me to re-discover a summer food experience that I encountered no less than 7 years ago: seasoned, fresh pork belly on the grill. I had the pleasure of being served this delicious concoction at my soon-to-be in-law's family home, not far outside of Montreal. Dear Uncle Jerry who subsequently lost his battle with cancer and left our world far too soon, was proudly serving them up from his giant grill in the backyard. It is an endearing memory of spending a lovely afternoon with the people who were soon to become my new family members.

Simple as can be but with the proper "accoutrements" a luxury sandwich fit for the gods. There is no real recipe per se but I'll share a couple tips that I have picked up while obsessively serving this sandwich to every meat-eating person I know. 
Update (added July 4th, 2010): I have served a vegetarian version of this sandwich switching the pork belly for portobello mushrooms using the same spice blend and drizzling olive oil on them before grilling)

Pork belly sliced ¼" thick:
It's bacon, people! Basically, it's fresh uncured, unsmoked, un-brined bacon...
You will probably need a butcher. I have personally never seen fresh pork belly in the supermarket so head to your friendly neighbourhood butcher. I recommend Chez Vito's, where the service and quality are unbeatable. If you are more DIY, alternately you can also find pork belly in the meat department of most Asian grocery stores. Butchers are nicer because they can slice it for you. I always grill it skin-on but it can get tough and hard in places so you may prefer to remove the skin.
DIY Tip: to cut it evenly, put the piece of pork belly in the freezer for an hour before slicing.

When I was introduced to this "recipe" the hosts were using Lawry's Seasoned Salt. It's a fairly common savoury blend of salt, msg and spices. I make my own, which you can find the recipe for here. Other suitable seasonings are the A.Vogel Swiss Herb Salts widely available in Montreal supermarkets in regular or spicy mixes.

I hate having the roof of my mouth shredded by sharp and hard bread crust. My favourite meal sandwich bread are the Vietnamese baguettes used in the awesome $2 Vietnamese submarines available throughout the city. Affordably available ($1.20 to $1.30 for 3) at all Kim Phat stores as well as other Asian markets throughout the city. They are crisp, soft and airy...supermarket submarine or panini buns are a suitable alternative.

Slaw: This is my personal addition to the sandwich that was not part of the original experience. A nice zingy coleslaw added to this sandwich seems to atone the sins of eating a slab of greasy, smoky, bacon in a white bun. Purchase your favourite slaw or make your own, here's how I make mine.

Generously sprinkle the slabs of pork belly with the seasoned salt. Throw on hot grill until nicely seared with dark grill lines (5 minutes per side). Put inside halved buns (mayo optional) with a generous amount of coleslaw. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Instructions: Eat it. (then write me and let me know how it changed your life.)

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