Cumin Scented Confit Lamb Belly
Josh Keller grew up in North Eastern Pennsylvania. It is a place he would not exactly say has good food but the corners are lined with Irish bars, simple red sauce Italian restaurants and a tradition of family largely influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. While Josh did have an Italian grandmother who passed off hard rocks as gnocchi, his family was not a foodie family. Scrapple and grits were an every other day staple. It was not until he was older that he discovered the wonders of Pennsylvania cuisine including fries with brown gravy and corn beef hash.
Is Northeast PA a culinary mecca? No. But a great place to grow up. When Eat This! asked for a Chef Recipe and a story, Josh was lost. There are no pigs in Northeast PA. Infact, there is no cattle either. What they did have was goats, lamb and dairy cows. The summer after his junior year in high school, Josh and two friends got summer jobs working on a sheep farm a few miles from his home. It was an amazing summer of fixing fences, sheering, feeding and caring for sheep, but it was also the first time he realized that someone raises the food we eat. He watched animals he had become attached to- go to slaughter. At first, he struggled with this and then came to realize that this is where meat comes from. In honor of that summer on the farm, Josh chose a lamb dish to emphasize who and what defines him as a chef. This simple recipe is full of flavor. While this cut of meat may take a little longer to cook, it represents true lamb flavor with his own Northeast, PA panache.Ingredients
- 4 Border Springs Lamb Bellies, cleaned
- 1/4c Cumin (ground and toasted)
- 1/4c Coriander (ground and toasted)
- 1c Kosher Salt
- 1/4c Sugar
- 12 Padron peppers
- 1 Pint Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 Quart Rendered Duck Fat (or clear liquid frying oil)
- 1 Quart Heavy Cream
- 1T Buttermilk (Cultured)
- 4 Sprigs Thyme
- 1/2c Whole black peppercorns
- 1 Head Garlic (split)
- 1 T Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 Leaves Mint
1. One Day Before - Make Crème Fraiche
Take one quart of heavy cream and mix in 1 tablespoon of buttermilk. Mix together until incorporated. Place in a container with a vented lid (Cheesecloth securely placed on top works the best.) Set aside for 24 hours in a room with a temperature of 70 degrees.
2. Make Cure for the bellies
Take the bellies out of their packaging and pat dry any moisture. Combine the cumin, coriander, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Once it is well mixed together, use it to season the bellies on both sides, and place them on a sheet tray with wire rack in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
3. The Next Day/Meal Day
Make sure that the crème fraiche has thickened. If not just keep letting it sit until you have to use it.Pull the bellies out of the refrigerator. In a skillet on medium high heat add 2 tablespoons of blended oil. When the pan is hot place each belly gently in the pan and brown on both sides. Sear the bellies one at a time (unless you have a pan large enough to hold them all). Once they are browned, transfer into a Dutch oven (it is fine if they overlap). Add the thyme, peppercorns, and garlic. Cover the bellies with duck fat (or the liquid frying oil), put on the lid and place in a 300-degree oven for 5-6 hours. It is important to check the bellies ever so often so they don't burn and depending on your oven it may take more or less time. The bellies should be fork tender but not broken. Let them cook.
4. Prep Veggies
Cut the pint of cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise and set aside, while keeping them at room temperature. Inspect the Padron peppers to make sure there are not soft or wilted and trim the stem, leaving about ¼ inch on. Set aside, but do not combine.
5. Remove Lamb Bellies from the oven and Cut
Let cool in the fat to keep the meat as moist as possible. When cool, transfer to a sheet tray with a wire rack, so liquid can drain. Cut the bellies into approximately 4 ounce portions (we like small equal squares for presentation).
6. Sear the Bellies
In a cast iron skillet on medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon of blended oil and sear the lamb on both sides to get the outside crispy but not burned. Place the pan in a 300 degree oven to finish cooking.
7. Char the Peppers & Tomatoes
Heat a large cast iron pan on high with no oil. Once the pan is hot, add the Padron Peppers, charring them with some nice color but not burning them. About halfway through, when they are browning, add the halved tomatoes and char as well. Once the tomatoes have some color, add 1 tablespoon of EVO, salt to taste and continue to cook, about 2 minutes. Turn off the flame and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (approximately 1 Lemon)
8. Serve & Enjoy
Place a spoonful of crème fraiche on the plate. Arrange the peppers and tomatoes with the pieces of lamb belly. Garnish with a chiffonade of mint leaf and a pinch of sea salt. Bon Appetite!