I am feeling a little embarrassed. It has taken me a very long time to eat pork belly and to figure out what it really is. So here’s the story.
I am at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Atlanta Saturday morning. I happen upon Kevin Ouzts, the owner and executive chef of The Spotted Trotter, a charcuterie. You know I’m all about the sausage. He offers me some fried hog jowl. It is sumptuous and makes me want to take home some of his other products, particularly the sorghum cured pork belly. I have become almost nauseous over the number of times I’ve heard fancy chefs talk about pork belly and I wanted to finally try it. I don’t know how to cook it. I ask the nice lady helping Kevin and she asks if I’ve ever fried bacon. Well, of course, she doesn’t know me. I am practically made of bacon.
I take my package of pork belly and head to Brentwood. When I get home I proudly display it to Mark and he says, “What are you doing with a package of streak o’ lean?” And it finally dawns on me. The pork belly that various chefs have been adding to their trendy menus is just streak o’ lean! It’s not even fancy!
For those of you who don’t know, streak o’ lean is just a piece of pork off the belly that has a thin layer of meat between too goodly layers of fat. Most Southern cooks use it to season beans. I do not want to take anything away from the chefs who are braising it and infusing it with all manner of good things. But I took the advice of that nice young lady in Atlanta and I sliced it like bacon and fried it.
Oh, my goodness. It was like bacon on steroids. The fat was deliciously crisp and chewy at the same time and the lean meat just melted in my mouth. You could definitely taste the sweet undertones of the sorghum. I am now officially in love with this stuff, whatever you want to call it.
I also want to say that Kevin Ouzts is a genius and I am contemplating moving to Atlanta and setting up housekeeping in the parking lot of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market so I can be up and at it bright and early Saturday mornings to be first in line at The Spotted Trotters stand.