Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Luxurious Liempo

Here’s my take on the classic lechon kawali. It stores well in the fridge and, as you'll see, it attains perfection after reheating. Perfect for those who only have time to cook during weekends and can only reheat stuff for weekday dinners.

pork liempo (at least 1 kilo)
laurel leaves

1. The most important element here is the pork. You need to use pork liempo (belly) and they have to be in big chunks. And I mean big: I usually cut one kilo of liempo into three or four pieces. You need the size to ensure the right texture; don't use those bacon-thin strips of liempo. You also need to use liempo for the flavour-- yes, the fat really helps. Obviously, health food this isn't.

2. Season the pork with salt, pepper, and spices. You can use any spice mix you want: recently I used Cajun seasoning, but you can also use Old Bay, curry, or anything that's available. You can also skip the spices and just stick with salt and pepper. Remember to be generous with the flavourings-- very few of the essential oils will actually penetrate the meat so make up for it with flavour strength.

3. Braise the pork (i.e., boil in slow to medium heat) along with the bay leaves and garlic; I also add some dried chile arbol just because I have some. Boil the pork for a long time, like two hours or more, until the pork is completely cooked and soft. Take your time; watch some TV or do some homework. Turn the pork occasionally, and make sure it doesn't run out of water before you're done.

4. Drain the remaining stock and allow the pork to cool down. If you did this at night, put the pork in the chiller and go to sleep. If you still have a meal ahead of you, keep the piece you're going to eat and chuck the rest into the chiller.

5. Prior to serving, brown the pork using your preferred browning method-- frying or broiling. I personally prefer broiling because it allows the fat to drain. Since the meat is already cooked all you have to worry about is its final state-- how crisp and brown you want it or how much of the fat you want to drain away. With some patience you can get the skin to a very crisp state-- not like lechon or chicharon, but still good. Note that this is the second time you're cooking the meat so by the time you're finished it will be falling off your fork.

Serve with steamed rice and vegetables on the side-- grilled eggplant is a perfect partner.

* When you braise meat it goes through three phases: (1) raw, (2) cooked but rubbery, and (3) cooked and soft. From (1) to (2), the heat denatures the meat (i.e., cooks the proteins) but also makes it tougher. As you continue to braise the meat, the heat and moisture transforms the tough proteins (specifically collagen) into gelatin, softening the meat to perfection. The meat will toughen up when you put it in the fridge because of the gelatin cooling down, but it will easily soften again with just a little reheating.


incarnadine29 said...

Diba the secret to really crispy and delectable lechon kawali is to store it in the freezer and then before it gets thawed to deep-fry it? :)

diyowel said...

hi there! my boss told me she met up with you yesterday. by the way, i'm also from dagupeña bangus which you blogged about in your maiden post. i hope you'll like our bangus chorizo and tocino, they are 100% natural, no preservatives and use only natural coloring.

i heard you are from a certain institution. my cousin's husband also consults there... i just want to ask if you know joseph "wek" alaban? micro-finance expert for southeast asia...

E. Cross Saltire said...

Hi, diyowel. Yeah, met up with your boss yesterday. (Nice meeting you, anne.)

No, I don't know a Wek Alaban. My department is Central and West Asia, btw. The SE Asia department is on the other side of the building. :)

diyowel said...

i just thought you'd know him. anyway, your liempo was great! i've always loved liempo with all its saturated fat especially my mom's melt-in-my-mouth sinigang na liempo. your liempo has luxuriously satisfied my craving. i rubbed mine (actually, mom did it) with cayene pepper flakes, oregano and crumpled bay leaves before braising ,then the next day,(she) deep fried it until brown and crisp. after which, i took a spoon or two of pork fat and mixed it with patis then drizzle the mixture over hot steamed rice. (sure way to be forever young!)

skinnyblackcladdink said...

in other words, braising is very similar to the natural process of decay...death to rigor to flaccidity...

E. Cross Saltire said...

diyowel: Glad you tried (and liked) the recipe.

skinny: Exactly, but with much tastier results.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

you mean you've tasted decay?

oh yeah, i forgot, you're 70-something percent Megatron.