Let me start by saying, I know that this recipe is completely over-the-top. Think of this as a destination dish—something fun and rich and totally special-occasion to share with friends and family (perhaps for Easter this coming weekend?).
The idea for the recipe (four recipes, really) started as a conversation with my friend Andrew Zimmern, chatting about food (of course), when I joked with him that I’d been wanting to make up a dish combining my three favorite blog posts and call it The Triple Threat: Poached eggs and pork on pancakes.
He told me about an amazing dish he’d had at SugarCane in Miami—a savory waffle topped with crispy duck confit, topped with watercress salad, topped with a fried duck egg. I couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of it—decadent with a good sense of humor. That’s exactly what I wanted this dish to be!
Since I was committed to pork, not duck, I called my friend Scott Pampuch to talk pork belly, and as it turns out, pancakes. My wish was for gluten-free pancakes—so that I could eat them!—that didn’t require several different types of non-wheat flour. He offered these rice flour-potato pancakes which delivered completely. Tender with crispy edges, with chives that compliment the richness of the pork and egg, they make a lovely base for a pretty ridiculous pile of goodness.
The next day I had a long conversation with my friend Ken Okumura about the beauty of pork belly. When I told him about The Triple Threat idea, he suggested trying the Momofuku method of high-then-low-heat roasting the belly, rendering a good portion of its lovely fat and in effect creating a sort of pork confit with a deeply crisp crust.
Inspired by the SugarCane dish, a bacon-maple vinaigrette acts as sort of tart-sweet pan juices, marrying the yolk, belly, and pancake into a cohesive, glorious whole. Peppery watercress keeps the richness in check. A little.
I’m not sure if I had more fun while talking with my friends about this dish or in actually seeing the dish completed. Honestly, I think it was the talking, pulling ideas together to create something more fun, beautiful, and layered with flavor and texture than I could have ever come up with on my own. Thanks guys!
Poached Egg, Crispy Pork Belly & Watercress On Rice Flour-Potato Pancake with Bacon-Maple Vinaigrette
This dish is basically four separate recipes, none of them complicated. To work ahead, make the pork belly and bacon-maple vinaigrette the day before you plan to serve the dish.
From Momofuku by David Chang & Peter Meehan
Note: I purchased the pork belly for this recipe from Bar 5 (507.964.5612) at the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market. You can also purchase pork belly from Corner Table Restaurant in Minneapolis (612.823.0011), Blue Gentian Farm (715.781-8169), and various Asian markets. Call ahead to confirm availability.
One 3-lb. slab skinless pork belly
1/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar
Nestle the belly into a roasting pan that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat; discard any excess mixture. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 24 hours.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown.
Turn the oven temperature down to 250 degrees F and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the belly is tender. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Allow the belly to cool slightly.
When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.)
Cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch-thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just for a minute or two, until they are jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once.
Makes about 1 cup
5 strips bacon, cut into fine julienne
2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
5 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. washed & dried watercress leaves
Put bacon in a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Stir until bacon is golden brown, 10-15 minutes, and remove pan from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings.
Set pan aside and let the drippings cool off a bit, about 10 minutes. Reserve 4 Tbsp. of drippings in the pan. Whisk maple syrup, vinegar, and brown sugar into the drippings. Return the pan to medium heat, bring vinaigrette to a simmer, and whisk until the sugar starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes.
Transfer dressing to a small stainless bowl and cool to just-warm. Whisk in mustard, olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir in bacon pieces.
Put watercress in a medium bowl. Just before serving, toss with 2 Tbsp. of warm dressing. Drizzle additional dressing over eggs. (Chill unused dressing. Warm lightly to serve.)
Rice Flour Potato Pancakes (Gluten-Free)
From Scott Pampuch
Makes 12, 4-inch pancakes
2 oz. butter, cut into 1-inch slices, room temperature, plus 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
12 oz. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved
2 bay leaves
2 eggs, separated
1 c. rice flour
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. potato cooking water
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. minced chives
Put 2 oz. butter in a small skillet and heat over medium heat. The butter will melt, then foam. Stir a few times until foam subsides, brown bits start to appear in the pan, and butter smells nutty. Remove pan from heat and stir. Butter will continue to cook and brown off heat for a few minutes. Set aside to cool.
Put potatoes, bay leaves, 2 tsp. salt, and water to cover by 1-inch in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring water to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer until potatoes are tender. Strain potatoes, reserving 1/2 c. of cooking water. Discard bay leaves. Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk, salt, chives, brown butter, and baking powder until smooth.
Sift rice flour over the potatoes. Stir in the egg mixture. Let rest for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into potato mixture. Add potato water to achieve the desired batter thickness. (Note: I used a little more than 1/3 c. of the water.) Batter will be thick.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, brush lightly with melted butter, then using a spoon, spread about 3 Tbsp. of batter into a couple of 4-inch diameter pancakes. Cook until lightly browned on one side, flip, and brown on the other side. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.
Makes 6-12 eggs
6-12 large organic eggs (1 or 2 per person)
Put 3 c. salted water in a medium saucepan over high heat.
Set out 6 plates. Set 1-2 pancakes on each plate, top with warmed pork belly slices, and then a little pile of watercress tossed with bacon-maple vinaigrette.
When the water boils, turn heat down so that the water is barely simmering—small bubbles should barely break the surface. Crack one egg into a small dish and slide it into the water. Quickly do the same with the second egg. Set the timer for 3 minutes. The eggs whites will look shredded, but that’s OK. When the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to scoop one egg out of the stock/water. Tilt the spoon so the liquid drains completely off, then place the egg on top of the watercress. Repeat with the second egg. Top eggs with a teaspoon of additional bacon-mustard vinaigrette and a few grinds of black pepper each. Poach additional eggs. Serve immediately.