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Chef Cathal Armstrong's Roast Pork Belly Recipe


Cathal Armstrong's Roast Pork Belly with Cabbage and Sous-Vide Apples.

At Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA, one of Chef Cathal Armstrong's favorite dishes is roast pork belly with braised cabbage and sous vide apples. It's a multi-stage recipe that involves brining the pork belly over several days, and there are several moving parts that first-timers may want to build up to. But the result is well worth it.

For those who haven't yet gotten into the sous-vide game, the recipe for apples poached in simple syrup is a fantastic replacement. Click here for the chef's recipe for sous-vide apples.  

-- Arthur Bovino


For the pork belly:

  • One brined four-pound pork belly, rind removed
  • 2 heads garlic, halved horizontally
  • 2 small onions, quartered (2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
  • 3 small leeks, white and light-green parts, cut in large pieces (1½ cups)
  • ½  ounce thyme sprigs 
  • ½  ounce rosemary sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 cups demi-glace
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme

For the apples:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 medium cooking apples

For the cabbage:

  • ½ teaspoon whole allspice
  • ½ teaspoon juniper berries
  • 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 12 ounces fatty bacon, cured but not smoked
  • 2 large onions, julienned
  • 30 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds Savoy or York cabbage, quartered and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 4 ounces softened butter

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Reserved trimmed scraps from pork belly, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small leek, white and light green parts, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped (1 cup)
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 quart demi-glace
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ -1 cup pork braising liquid
  • ½ ounce thyme sprigs
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 cup apple peelings
  • 4 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons butter


For the pork belly:

Click here to see Chef Cathal Armstrong's Brine recipe

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Remove the belly from the brine, rinse it completely and blot it dry on paper towels. Keep the belly in one piece. Discard the brine.

Trim the belly so that it is a perfect rectangle. Cut the trimmings into 2-inch pieces. Place the trimmings, garlic, onions, carrots, leeks, thyme and rosemary sprigs, bay leaves and peppercorns in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the belly on top of the vegetables. Pour the demi-glace over it. Wrap the pan with foil and bake until fork tender, about for 3 ½ hours, basting with pan juices every half-hour.

Remove the foil, increase the heat to 400° F and roast the belly 30 more minutes, basting after 20 minutes. Allow the belly to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, the cooking liquid and a layer of fat will have congealed around the belly. Transfer the belly to a cutting board. Remove the layer of congealed fat and save it for another use. Heat the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the vegetables, herbs and spices. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve it, making sure that all the fat has been skimmed off. Cut the pork belly into 6 perfect 8-ounce squares, reserving all the trimmings.


For the apples:

Cook sugar and water for 5 minutes. Peel, core, and slice apples; cooking a few at a time until tender, adding a little more water when necessary. Pour sugar syrup over cooked apples and set aside.

Click here for Chef Cathal Armstrong's sous-vide apples


For the cabbage:

In a spice grinder, finely grind the allspice, juniper berries and peppercorns and set aside. In a large casserole over medium heat, sauté the bacon until it is light brown and fat has rendered from it, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook until the onions are tender, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage begins to break apart, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Check seasoning for salt. Add 6 bay leaves. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the cabbage and cut a 1-inch hole from the center of it. Place the parchment over the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Keep the cabbage warm until ready to use.


For the sauce:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Sauté the bacon in the oil until it begins to brown and some caramelization has started in the bottom of the pan. Add the leeks, onions and carrots.

Using a wooden spatula, stir the vegetables, scraping brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Let the vegtables cook for several minutes. Add the vinegar and scrape some more. Let the vinegar reduce for 5 minutes. Add the demi-glace, bay leaves and enough braising liquid to flavor the sauce but not render it too salty, up to 1 cup. Let the sauce simmer, but not boil, for 10 minutes, skimming impurities and fat from the surface every couple of minutes.

Add the thyme and simmer another 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and apple peelings. Cook the sauce until it begins to be viscous and slightly syrupy. Remember to keep skimming the sauce throughout the process. (Total cooking time will be about an hour.) Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer 8 times. Keep warm until ready to finish the dish. (Yield: about a quart)


For finishing the pork:

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until it shimmers. Place the belly pieces top side down in the pan and brown for 2 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook for another 2 minutes. Then brown them on each of their 4 sides. Continue turning the pieces over and over on every side every couple of minutes, basting them with the fat that renders from them. Cook the pieces until they are brown, crispy and warm in the center, about 15 minutes total.  Just before serving the pork, add a teaspoon of chopped garlic and a teaspoon of chopped thyme to the pan and baste the belly pieces with the flavored fat.


For finishing the cabbage:

Right before serving, stir in 4 ounces of softened butter into the cabbage and a teaspoon of chopped thyme. Adjust seasoning.



For finishing the sauce:

Finish the sauce: In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, sauté 4 tablespoons of chopped shallots in 1 teaspoon of butter until the shallots soften, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Stir in 6 ounces of strained sauce and then stir in another teaspoon of butter. Remove from heat. (Freeze the rest of the sauce base.)



To serve:

Assemble the dishes: Divide the cabbage evenly among 6 large, warm dinner plates. Top with pork belly. Place 3 apple batons around each belly. Drizzle some sauce over and around the belly pieces. Sprinkle the pork with micro greens and serve immediately.