Pork Belly Sandwich

This sandwich recipe from Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate (Clarkson Potter, February 2013) by Top Chef Richard Blais is a new twist on the classic BLT. Instead of bacon, Blais uses cured, smoked pork belly and slow-roasts it in the oven; it is an interesting way to coax flavor and texture out of an unexpected source. Instead of the tomatoes that give the traditional BLT a bright acidity, this recipe calls for tart pickled radishes. You can also add a few slices of fresh peaches when they’re in season, as their sweetness adds another level of flavor and fun (persimmons are a nice alternative). Some people forget tomatoes are fruit—you can always play around and switch out a tomato for another slightly sweet, fleshy fruit (such as persimmon, peach, or apple). Get creative!

Pork Belly Sandwich
Recipe from Try This at Home by Richard Blais

Makes 4 sandwiches

For the Pork Belly:
One 1-pound slab rind-on smoked pork belly (or slab bacon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

For the Sandwiches:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Juice of 1⁄2 lime
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 sandwich-style croissants split in half, or alternatively, some good-quality white bread
1⁄4 cup Smoked Aioli
1⁄2 cup drained Pickled Radishes
1 cup arugula leaves, watercress sprigs, or flat leaf parsley
1 ripe peach, persimmon, or apple, halved, pitted, and sliced (optional)

1. To cook the pork belly: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a double layer of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and set the pork belly in the center fat side up. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and smear the Dijon evenly over the meat side (not the rind). Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the mustard and press so it adheres.

2. Wrap the pork tightly in the foil and roast for 3 hours. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Peel the rind off the pork belly and discard. Wrap the belly tightly in plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours and up to 5 days.

4. To make the sandwiches: Unwrap the pork and slice it into 8 even slices. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on both sides until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels.

5. Sprinkle the lime juice over the avocado slices and season them lightly with salt and pepper.

6. Spread 1 tablespoon of the smoked aioli on 4 of the bread slices. Top the remaining 4 pieces of bread with 2 slices pork belly each, followed by some pickled radishes, one-quarter of the arugula leaves, and one-quarter of the avocado slices; top with several peach slices, if using. Put the top bread slices in place and serve immediately.