Several years ago, we dreamed of opening up a restaurant. Specifically we wanted to open an izakaya (a Japanese pub)- also our favorite type of Japanese cuisine. Once we had that idea in our heads, I immediately started waitressing on the side to learn front-of-house operations while Jared started working part time in the kitchen of a French restaurant to learn back-of-house. I spent hours and hours doing research and even took an entrepreneurship class for fun. But after a few years, reality finally set in when we realized we were poor and that running a restaurant is just not all that fun. I mean, haven't we all read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential by now? In the end, we came to the practical conclusion that we would much rather have the time and sanity to travel the world and eat and eat and eat.
Coincidentally, the whole concept of an izakaya had been gaining some traction and popularity in the U.S., mainly in the East and West coast. Chicago is always several years behind in catching up with these trends, but in the last couple years a few izakaya's have popped up, though some more successful than others and some more authentic than others. Several months ago, I noticed some twitter chatter about a new restaurant called Chizakaya and we decided to check it out. While this place bears the name of "Japanese Pub" in it's description, I'd describe it as more of a modernized izakaya.
One of our favorite dishes was the pork belly dish. But really, when has a pork belly dish not become our favorite? A crunchy exterior and tender interior piece of pork belly was served on a skewer that sat on top of a bowl with a perfectly gooey soft boiled egg on the bottom. The combination of the two textures and flavors was unbeatable. So today we bring you another installment of Jared's restaurant recreations.
Jared was confident in his pork belly braising and searing technique. But while he's poached many an egg the traditional way on the stovetop, he had been itching to try to obtain the perfect 63 degree egg... sans expensive sous vide machine. We just happened to have a couple styrofoam coolers lying around so he decided to re-fashion one of them into his own thermal immersion circulator.
We won't go into the details behind the science of the 63 degree egg, but for you nerdy readers out there, you can read it here. And for the DIY type, you can also build one using a crock pot and a thermocouple.
1lb pork belly chunk, without skin soy sauce 1/2 cup mirin 1/2 cup sake 1 clove garlic water
- In a heavy pot or dutch oven, sear the pork belly on all sides
- Add the sake, mirin, 1 clove of garlic and enough water to barely submerge the pork belly.
- Add Soy sauce to taste, remember as the braising liquid reduces, it becomes saltier.
- Braise the pork belly for 2 hours or until tender.
- Remove the pork belly and let it cool
- Place pot in the fridge for overnight
- Remove the pork belly and slice it while it is still cold.
- Place the sliced pork belly back into the pot and simmer on very low heat until ready to serv1e
- When ready to serve, remove the sliced pork belly and pat dry with some paper towel
- Season with a little sea salt
- In a hot pan, sear the sliced pork belly for a few seconds on each side for a crunchy texture and nice caramelized color.
The 63 degree egg
- Using a styrofoam cooler or a normal cooler, place the egg in a 63 deg C water bath for 45 minutes or so.
- If the temperature drops, scoop out some water from the cooler an add hot water until the bath reaches 63 deg C again. It helps to keep the lid on to prevent the heat from escaping.
- Once the eggs are ready, crack the shell and remove it under a water bath. This will prevent too much stress on the egg.
- Use a slotted spoon and remove the egg
NOTE: It might take you a few rounds of trial and error before you get the right consistency if your digital thermometer is off by a few degrees.
The recipe is not from Ad Hoc, but that was the only heavy book around. Jared put it on top to create a better seal.
- To serve, ladle a spoonful of the braising liquid into a bowl.
- Carefully place the egg in the liquid
- Set the pork belly above the egg and garnish with sliced scallions
- To eat, dip the pork belly into the perfectly cook egg and enjoy it with your favorite beer.
With all that's been happening here around Eat a Duck I Must, this pork belly recipe is about as romantic as it will get for Valentine's Day. But seriously, if you can't win your girlfriend/boyfriend's heart with this pork belly, then I don't know what will ;)