Recipe of the Month: Braised Pork Belly with Watermelon Mint Salad & Ponzu Sauce

From Chef Charles Cho of B.E.S. (Boutique Eat Shop) in New York City, this vibrant, Asian-inflected dish balances rich, salty pork belly, sweet, cooling watermelon and refreshing mint.



For Pork

2 pounds Berkshire pork belly
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of cilantro
4 bay leaves
¼ cup salt
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

For Watermelon Mint Salad

1 cup of ½-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
2 tablespoons chiffonade of mint
pinch of sea salt
pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons saba (or balsamic vinegar)

To prepare the pork:

Rinse pork belly and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a pot with a bit of vegetable oil. Sear each side of pork belly and add remaining ingredients to pot. Cover with water completely and bring to a boil, then cover and turn off heat. Place pot in oven at 300°F for 4 hours. Remove pork belly from the pot with a slotted spoon and refrigerate for 24 hours or until completely cool and firm. Once firm, cut 1/3-inch slices from the skin side to the meat side in uniform strips and reserve.

To make the watermelon salad:

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.

To Finish:

Lay sliced pork belly flat on a sheet pan. Brush the sweet Ponzu sauce on one side of the pork and cook in an oven at 400°F for 5–7 min. Remove from oven. Spoon a tablespoon of blueberry compote on one side of plate and drag spoon across. Place watermelon salad where spoon ended. Place hot pork belly on plate and garnish with a bit of cilantro; drizzle any remaining Ponzu sauce over pork.

Wine recommendation:

This summer-friendly dish calls for a refreshing, fruit-forward and fragrant white like Kim Crawford’s Marlborough 2010 Sauvignon Blanc or an easy-drinking sangria, like the Summer Punch Sangria from B.E.S. packed with brandy-soaked berries.

For Sweet Ponzu sauce:

½ cup Ponzu
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 seeded jalapeños (small dice)

In a small pot add Ponzu, brown sugar and jalapeños. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 min. Take off of heat and cool. Brush the sauce on one side of the sliced pork before cooking in oven.

For Blueberry Compote:

1 cup blueberries
¼ cup granulated sugar

For watermelon salad:

1 cup of  ½ inch by ½inch squares of seedless watermelon
2 tablespoons mint chiffonade
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons saba (or substitute balsamic vinegar)

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture has slightly thickened, take off of heat and cool. Drag a tablespoonful of blueberry compote from one side of the plate to the other. Plate pork on top.

B.E.S.(T) Summer Punch Sangria recipe:

5 ounces red or white wine
1ounce Triple Sec
Splash of lime juice
Splash of lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Brandy
2 spoonfuls mixed berries

Combine all ingredients, stir and serve in wine glass or in a pitcher.

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