Ever since I read Harold McGee’s article on making BBQ ribs at home I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using what we usually think of as sweet ingredients on the savory side of cooking. In his spice rub Harold uses pimentón, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla to recreate the aromas of hardwood smoke. The question became: If these flavor combinations occur naturally in our cooking can we recombine them to create something new and interesting?
Vanillin is the key flavor compound found in vanilla beans and is also one of the key aromats in hardwood smoke, so I began there. Pork was a natural next step. I brined a pork belly in a 20:1 brine that I had infused with a couple of vanilla beans. After brining for 3 days and resting for one more the belly was cooked in an immersion circulator at 60ºC for 72 hours. After chilling the belly was portioned and crisped in a hot pan of grape seed oil. Here it’s paired with a roasted banana puree taking the sweet meets savory concept even further. The grains of paradise and california chile sauce serve to stand up to the pork belly and sweetness of the banana. A small portion is appropriate because the dish is so rich, but the depth of flavor truly packs a punch. After all, dynamite comes in small packages.