For centuries, pork belly was considered a poor man’s cut of meat, but oh, how things have changed! Today it appears on numerous fine-dining menus, but it still must shrug off its dated reputation from time to time. Fortunately, the culinary team at Bar Boulud on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has taken up the cause. Diners are likely to find pork belly in some form on the menu at all times. One of the most popular dishes that the restaurant has served is the rillons croustillants au poivre—a traditional French preparation where the meat is first brined for hours before it’s fried, topped with crushed pepper, and plated with a small frisée salad and a bit of grainy mustard. The dish is far from a poor man’s meal; rather, it’s an indulgence.
Less than four miles away, at Rogue and Canon in the West Village, chef Adam Slamon embraces a similar indulgent philosophy, manifested in the form of a burger. The patty is covered in crispy pork belly and topped with onion marmalade, aged cheddar, and—in an unusual twist—peanut butter. Don’t knock it before you try it; the salty richness of the pork belly harmonizes with the sweeter notes of the peanut butter.
But Slamon isn’t the only chef who’s incorporating pork belly in unusual ways. At the Herbfarm, an elegant and intimate restaurant in Woodinville, Wash., chef Chris Weber features it in dishes that creatively spotlight other seasonal ingredients. On one of the restaurant’s rotating menus, for example, Weber served a pork-belly confit paired with thin ravioli accompanied by farm egg yolks, turnips, and dill.
At Boston’s No. 9 Park, the chef de cuisine Scott Jones features a crispy Berkshire pork belly paired with littleneck clams that are poached in a ramp-and-fennel nage and dressed with chorizo vinaigrette. The results are akin to a complex chemistry experiment, where the salty flavors of the clams and the pork play off each other.