The South is where you find the best traditional comfort food, but when I was in New York recently, I had what may be the greatest comfort-food dish ever. One of the city's top restaurants is Gramercy Tavern, and it was there that I experienced a dish described on their menu as "fresh bacon"-large chunks of ultra-tender pork belly.
I never imagined I'd be able to prepare this dish at home, but thanks to the meat section of Kearny Mesa's Zion Marketplace and the miracle of Google, I was able to reproduce this amazing dish-and it's cheap! Pork belly goes for around $4 per pound, the box of chicken stock costs about $2, and the assorted vegetables should run you no more than $4.
Be advised, this is a lengthy process, taking roughly three hours start-to-finish, so you might want to set aside a weekend afternoon.
* Heavy pot, oven and stovetop safe (preferably non-stick)
* Small sauté pan
* Sharp knife
* Two 1-pound pieces of pork belly
* Two cloves of garlic, chopped
* One onion, chopped
* Two carrots, chopped
* Two celery stalks, chopped
* One leek (white portion only), chopped
* Three cups of chicken stock (the Kitchen Basics brand at Trader Joe's is a good alternative to homemade)
What you do
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* In the heavy pot, brown the pork on the stovetop for about 15 minutes over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.
* Remove pork from pot. Pour off excess fat, leaving enough to sauté the chopped vegetables. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook vegetables until they are soft and the onions are translucent-about 20 minutes.
* Return pork to the pot and add two cups of the chicken stock. Put the pot in the oven and cook for one hour.
* Add an additional cup of stock to the pot, and cook for an additional hour.
* Remove the pot from the oven and let cool. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove pork from the pot and strain the cooking liquid into the small sauté pan.
* Score fat on the pork with a sharp knife, and return to the pot. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
* While the pork is browning in the oven, bring the strained stock to a simmer and skim off any fat that accumulates on the surface. Remove pork from the oven and cut into large chunks, spooning the stock over the top.
On your plate: pork, braised red cabbage, mashed potatoes.
In your glass: Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale or Taddy Porter
In the DVD player: Coal Miner's Daughter. What better to accompany fresh bacon than this 1980 biopic about country music icon Loretta Lynn?
Zion Marketplace, 4611 Mercury St., 858-268-3300, www.zionmarket.com.