LA CUCINA VIGNETO ....... Piatto a Base di Maiale e Fagioli

Occasionally I'll receive a photo assignment where I am required to prepare and photograph the food. This was one such assignment. The food editor has a great sense of humor and she emailed me - "Can you do a food shot on short notice? It is an upscale version of Pork & Beans!" What? But I said that I would - not knowing I would have to jump through a few hoops and fast to obtain the ingredients for this dish. The article was to be about Paul Kahan, Executive Chef/Partner of Blackbird, a very upscale restaurant in Chicago. Kahan was the winner of the James Beard Best Chef of the Midwest 2004 and a 2007 nominee for the James Beard Outstanding Chef.
The Recipe? Braised Pork Belly with Fresh Shell Bean Ragout. "Braised Pork Belly!" Now that just sounds awful doesn't it? Not easy to find either. You usually have to order it from Slagel Family Farms or Niman Ranch.
At any rate, I was able to track down the ingredients and prepare and photograph this dish in time for publication. I was very skeptical until I actually tasted this. It was incredibly good.
When I serve it at my house it's "Piatto a Base di Maiale e Fagioli" - just sounds so much better!
Braised Pork Belly with Fresh Shell Bean Ragout
Blackbird Executive Chef Paul Kahan

Braised Pork Belly:
Pork Belly, approximately five pounds
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
8 heads finely chopped garlic
1 onion, diced
2 celery, diced
2 medium carrots, dices
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 large sprig of thyme

The night before, trim all but one inch fat off the pork. Score fat. Separately, lightly toast all the seeds and coarsely grind. Cover the pork on the top and bottom with seeds.
the next day, scrape the seeds off the fat side of the pork. Season well with salt and pepper.
Heat a large, heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat and add the pork, fat-side down. When the fat is a nice brown color, remove pork to a roasting pan, fat side up.
bring chicken stock to a boil.
Pour off most of the fat and add the mirepoix. Saute mirepoix until just tender, season and add wine. Reduce wine to au sec.
Pour vegetable mixture over the pork, add chicken stock and thyme and season so the braising liquid is just salty.
Cook, uncovered, in 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until it is extremely tender when pierced. Let cool in liquid.
when mixture is cool, remove pork, divide into four pieces and set aside. Skim fat off the top of the braising liquid and strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pushing just gently.

Fresh Shell Bean Ragout:

1/4 pound pancetta, medium dice
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 shallots, sliced thinly
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberry beans, shelled
2 cups braising juice (from pork belly)
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
salt and pepper

Render pancetta in saute pan until just crisp. if needed, add a bit of water to facilitate rendering.
Add olive oil, heat briefly and add shallots and garlic, sweating them until just tender.
Add beans, braising liquid, herbs de Provence and simmer until beans are soft (not toothsome).

Red cabbage and Parsley Salad:

1/2 cup very thinly shaved red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Splash champagne vinegar

Combine all ingredients and season to taste.


In a black steel saucepan, render the fat side of the pork over medium-high heat.
When nicely browned, reduce heat to medium and brown remaining sides.
Spoon 1/4 cup shell bean ragout, with juice, into the center of a plate.
Top with pork belly, fat-side up, and top with cabbage and parsley salad.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards