When I began thinking about the flavors, textures and elements of these ingredients, the question of “what can I do” kept repeating itself. To play up the nostalgic plate memory of the maple syrup touching the now soggy bacon and overlaying the complexity of coffee, I used maple, pork belly and porter as a base flavor and went from there.
2 ½ lbs. pork belly, preferably Berkshire, skin removed*
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 ea. bay leaves
36 oz. porter style beer
½ cup maple syrup, grade ‘B’
* Pork belly is the same cut of meat as slab bacon, only fresh and not cured. This may be ordered from a local butcher or Asian market.
Take the pork belly and rub evenly with the salt. Place the belly into a Dutch oven and add the bay leaves, porter beer and maple syrup. Seal with a tight fitting lid or use aluminum foil to cover tightly and place into the center of a 225˚ preheated oven. Let the pork braise for 3-4 hours, until tender, but not falling apart. Some of the fat will melt away, leaving a good ratio of meat to fat. Let cool, removing the belly in one piece, then reduce the remaining braising liquid by two-thirds. Ideally, place the cooked pork belly into a baking dish, covering with the reduced liquid that has been cooled; cover with plastic wrap. Then place another baking dish, slightly smaller than the one below and place over the belly and add some cans of food to weigh it down. This will compress the flesh of the meat, creating a uniform thickness and a better texture to the final product. Place the baking dishes into the refrigerator for at least 12-24 hours, allowing the meat to be pressed.