While in Chicago for my Dad’s Memorial Celebration, we stumbled upon a random Italian restaurant. One of the specials was pork belly risotto served with a fried egg on top. To my surprise, my kids were all intrigued by the risotto, so we asked if it would be “weird” if we ordered one as an appetizer. Our waiter was thrilled, and said “absolutely no weirdness at all.” The egg was sunny side up, atop the risotto, so I was responsible for breaking it up and dishing out the risotto. We all agreed, the risotto was amazing. Pork belly is essentially just uncured and unsliced bacon, it has a lot of fat, but cooked properly, it’s delicious. Pork belly can be challenging to find, but if you have a farmer’s market or know of a pork farmer, they will likely have it, but you may have to special order it. I have also seen it in my local Asian grocery stores. So, I decided I had to try to recreate the dish once we returned home. I had a couple packages of pork belly (sometimes called pork side) in the freezer (from our great local pork farmers at Melo Farms) and I always have arborio rice on hand. What I noticed about the risotto in Chicago was that it was really tender, almost mushy. I’ve always been taught that risotto should be “al dente” with a little bite (crunch), but I would have to say, I embraced the well cooked risotto in this recipe and it was perfect. Cooking time for the pork belly is 2 1/2 hrs. but it basically cooks on its own – you just have to flip it once. The risotto takes anywhere from 25-40 minutes – this is active cooking time as you have stir almost constantly. We had the risotto as a main course; it serves 4, but you could serve about 8-10 appetizer portions (just serve with a couple of eggs).
- 1/2 Lb. Pork Belly
- 1 Cup Arborio Rice
- 3-5 Cups Chicken Broth
- 5 Cloves of Garlic – Chopped
- 1/4 Medium Sized Sweet Onion (about 3 TBS.- Finely Chopped)
- Kosher Salt
- Seasoned Pepper (you could use regular)
- 3 TBS. Italian Herbs (Dried)
- 1/4 Cup Wine (I used red, but white would be fine – as would chicken broth)
- 1 TBS. Olive Oil
- 1 TBS. Butter
- 3-4 TBS. Canola Oil
- 4 Large Eggs (1 per person unless serving as an appetizer)
Preheat oven to 450 Degrees. Place pork belly in a medium baking dish.Use a sharp knife to “score” the skin of the pork belly, being sure to get all the way through the tough skin but not cutting very far into the meat. Season both sides of the pork belly liberally with salt and seasoned pepper, add chopped garlic and Italian herbs to the meat side (not the skin side) of the pork. Finish with pork belly skin side up. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and put in the 450 Degree oven. Cook for 30 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 350 Degrees. After one hour, remove pork belly from the oven and flip it so skin side is down – the meat side should be nicely browned – if not, leave meat side down for a little longer. If bottom of baking dish has become browned, add about 1/2 of the wine or chicken broth to deglaze. Re-cover with aluminium foil and return to oven for another hour – checking occasionally to see if you need more wine. You could make this without the wine or chicken stock, but I think it adds a nice flavor (would make a good sauce) and it makes cleaning the baking dish easier. After an hour, remove from oven, but keep covered until ready to use.
In a medium saucepan, heat chicken broth. In another medium saucepan, heat olive oil and butter, add chopped onion and saute until transparent. Add the risotto and saute – stirring to incorporate oil and butter-for a minute or two. Add one cup of the hot chicken stock, and stir constantly until almost all broth is incorporated. Repeat this process until risotto is soft and creamy. Remove risotto from heat, cover, and set aside.
Remove pork belly from baking dish and place on a cutting board. separate the meat and fat from the skin of the pork belly (and discard some of the fat if you want), cut into pieces about 3/4 of an inch. Cover the cut pork belly to keep warm.
Add canola oil (should cover bottom of pan by about an 1/8 of an inch) to a medium sized saute pan. Heat oil over medium flame and crack eggs into pan with hot oil. Use a large spoon to spoon hot oil over the white part of the eggs only (if you want pretty sunny-side up, do not “baste” the yolks). Cook until whites of eggs are completely cooked.
Place risotto on a plate or shallow bowl. (If risotto has dried up a bit, add a touch more broth). Add pork belly to the risotto and top each plate with an egg. Serve immediately.