I’ll warn you now, Vegetarians, please look away! This one is sincerely not for you!
Two Thanksgivings ago, I added 4 star anise to the turkey brining liquid. As it turns out, although everyone loved it, I found it to be overpoweringly strong. But, when I brined the turkey last year, I used one star anise, and it was a subtle addition. I loved it, and no one even noticed the flavor, except for me. So when I had cleared up last year, the day after the big feast, I still had that flavor in the back of my head (and on my tongue), so I decided that I would make the Chinese Five Spice Pork that I had made before and really loved!
My one thing I really recommend you do is to make this powder fresh. It makes all the difference, and you can control the amount of salt that goes into it. So this is a two recipe entry! First, the spice powder. You can buy it in the store much more readily these days, but why not try and make your own? You’ll always know how fresh it is and as I said, you know exactly what’s in it. My version of it is actually 6 things, fennel seed, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns (nothing like regular pepper corns, and highly recommended to get), cloves, and star anise. Because I use this as a marinade of sorts, I also add Kosher salt to the mix. It helps the meat absorb the flavors more easily. I also would salt it anyway, and adding it to the grinder helps you get a finer powder. By the way, fennel seeds are a much overlooked spice. Their little fat, green seeds are quite delicious, and are a great digestive aid. Indians chew them after meals to help them digest and give their breath a sweet smell after all the garlic!
The ingredients are easy, but I take one additional step, before I grind it all up, I toast everything briefly in a dry hot pan. It’s just a little extra step that I think makes the flavors really pop.
Five Spice Powder
2 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp Szechuan pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick, crushed or shattered
1 tsp kosher salt
Place all the ingredients, with the exception of the salt, in a dry pan on high, and carefully rattle the pan so the spice mixture moves around in it. Once you begin to smell the spices, take the pan off the heat and place the spices onto a cold plate, or even a pepper towel, and let it cool off. Once it’s cool, pop everything into a spice or coffee grinder and add the salt, then process it until it is a fine brown powder. There should be no lumps or shards of anything. It will make plenty of spice for many uses, I particularly like to use it in stir fry dishes. Store it in a jar with a tight fitting lid, or a plastic zip lock bag in a coo dry place. A note about the Szechuan peppercorns, you may not find them everywhere, but they are available at Chinese or Asian markets now. If you don’t live near anything like that, you can order them or buy them from Dean & Deluca here or Amazon.com here. They are an odd flower bud, that will, if eaten straight, make your tongue tingly and a bit numb, but they are a super addition to this spice powder.
And now on to the roasted pork:
Five Spice Roasted Pork Belly
2 lb pork belly, skin on if you can find it
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine, or if you can’t find it, mirin
2 tbsp five spice powder
1 teaspoon of salt, if you are using prepared five spice
If you’re able to get skin on pork belly, pierce the skin all over with sharp skewers, or the tip of a small sharp knife. Don’t pierce through to the meat, just the skin. Place the pork in a plastic zip bag, and add the wine or mirin. Make sure the entire piece of meat is covered with the liquid, and massage it in if you can, especially to the scored skin, or the fat. Then add the five spice powder to the bag and mash it around so all the nooks and crannies are coated in it. When it’s all covered, secure the bag, and sit it in the fridge for an hour, or up to 12 hours. With the fresh spice powder, the flavor really is intense, so I don’t leave it in the bag for more than a few hours. It’s up to you and how much time you have.
Once the meat has marinated, take it out of the fridge and let it rest in the kitchen counter while you prepare the oven and roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I usually roast this in a square glass dish, and place a roasting rack in it. When the oven is preheated, place the meat on the rack, pour a cup of water into the base of the dish, being careful not to wet the meat, and roast it for 1 hour. Watch carefully to be sure there isn’t any burning. If it does start to brown too much, lightly tent the meat. After the 60 minutes, remove it from the oven and let it rest of 10 minutes or so. Serve this sliced with some rice and sautéed veggies.
Delish! And again, sorry vegetarians, this one was too good not to blog!