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Chefs’ Corner: Joel Herrera’s Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole


Chefs have long enjoyed using watermelon in inventive, fun dishes that showcase its sweetness and it juicy texture.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

In this dish, Joel Herrera, a founder of the local chefs group, Los Cocineros, matches the summer favorite with pork belly.

But he doesn’t stop there.

He infuses the watermelon with jalapeño and whiskey. Then he adds sweet spices, including fennel, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom to the pork belly, creating an engaging counterpart to the watermelon.

If it all seems too much for a hot summer day, then let Herrera cook it for you. It’s on the menu of Los Cocineros’ upcoming pop-up dinner, which is set for 6 p.m. July 10-11 at Amaya’s Tacos & Bakery, 1502 E. Commerce St. The price is $35 a person and you can bring your own bottle.

To make a reservation, go to Los Cocineros Facebook page and select the date of your choice.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Dry Rub:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Pork:
1 1/2 pounds pork belly in one rectangular piece, at least 60 percent lean

Braising Liquid:
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
3 whole tomatoes
2 cups dry white wine
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
2 whole juniper berries
1 cardamom pod
1 whole clove
1 quart chicken stock

For the Dry Rub: Combine salt, fennel, allspice and black pepper thoroughly. Rub onto all sides of the pork belly, place in a nonreactive pan and top with any remaining dry rub marinade over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove pork belly from refrigerator and place in a roasting pan.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

To make the braising liquid: In a large saucepan, saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add cinnamon stick, star anise, juniper berries, cardamom, clove and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Pour hot braising liquid over pork belly. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 1/2 hours or until completely tender when pierced with a fork. Note: The pork belly can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in the braising liquid until ready to proceed.

Remove the belly from the braise and cool. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut belly into 4 portions. Saute in a hot skillet with a little oil for two minutes, fat side down. Finish warming in oven for 5 minutes.

Compressed Watermelon:
1 watermelon
1 jalapeño
¼ cup whiskey

Remove the watermelon rind and cut the watermelon flesh into slabs that are 8 inches square and about 1 inch thick. It is fine to have smaller slabs.

Place the slabs into several vacuum seal bags. Do not overlap. Spread the jalapeño slices over the watermelon and pour in the whiskey and vacuum seal the watermelon.

Place the bags into the fridge for an hour and drain when ready to plate.

Pickled Watermelon Rind:
Clean the rind and leave only the green of the skin, make a mixture of a cup of rice vinegar, 1 garlic clove, ½ tablespoon of peppercorns, ¼ cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over watermelon rinds and put the bowl in the fridge. These can hold for a couple of days and the longer they set the better.

Kimchi Mole:
1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 2-ounce piece)
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 6 to 8 medium cloves)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups coconut milk
1 ancho chile
¼ cup lime juice

Bring red pepper powder, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk, ancho chile and lime juice to a boil. Season to taste, blend and pass through a chinois or mill.

To plate the dish, arrange the Kimchi Mole on four plates. Cut the pork belly and slabs of watermelon into smaller pieces and arrange on each plate. Add a cube or two of pickled watermelon rind. Garnish as you see fit, with cucumber matchsticks, mint leaves, microgreens or whatever you like. Use either of the photographs accompanying this article as a starting point.

Makes 4 servings.

From Joel Herrera/Los Cocineros

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It’s Dinner @ The East End — Pop-Up Style


Los Cocineros have announced the menu of their dinner — actually it’s Dinner @ The East End. And it’s going to be like pop-up dinner, only it’s a restaurant, in this case, the wonderful Amaya’s Tacos & Bakery, 1502 E. Commerce St.

dinner logoThe special meal is set for July 10 and 11 from 6 to 10 p.m. The price is $35 a person and you can bring your own bottle.

Here’s the menu:

Amuse
This season’s produce, local honey, Maldon sea salt, pickled ginger

1st Course
Summer’s Cherry Gazpacho – Chilled cherry and tomato purée, Huancaina , Pop Corn, Avocado pearls. “Table side construction”

2nd Course (ch00se one)

Spaghetti Dinner in July – Vegetable “faux” pasta, tomato, summer mushrooms, basil, parmigiana

Or

Mofongo – Oven roasted chicken, chicken cracklings, platanos, black bean purée, summer criolla

Or

Pig in a Patch – Mexican braised pork belly&ears, Aperol compressed watermelon, pickled rinds, Cocineros Mole

3rd Course

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie ….. Constructed Chef Rafas style

Beer and wine will be available, but you can bring your own.

To make a reservation, go to Los Cocineros Facebook page and select the date of your choice.

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They’re Serving Up Some Delicious Treats at the Anti-Valentine’s Day Dinner


Don’t fall for all this Valentine nonsense? Or perhaps you just want a memorable dinner, no matter the reason. Either way, you might be interested in the Anti-Valentine’s Day Dinner, which is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Amaya’s Tacos & Bakery, 1502 E. Commerce St. The culinary group Los Cocineros is presenting the meal.

Don't settle for a heart from the same mold as everyone else's.

Don’t settle for a heart from the same mold as everyone else’s.

As the organizers have said, “Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers … come on! It is the perfect time to scoff at those in love. They get all gushy, waste tons of money on chocolates and flowers, flood restaurants like a herd of cattle … sometimes they actually look quite ridiculous when February 14th rolls around. Shouldn’t love be celebrated every day, after all? It makes companies who profit and prey on these ‘love zombies’ shudder to think about them waking up and seeing what is truly going on.”

So, enjoy a meal that begins with a Pear Tart with mushrooms and blue cheese, followed by a beet terrine. Chicken liver mousse will be served before trout with almonds and brown butter. Beef heart will be served with a soubise sauce, grapes, frisée and carrot. There will be two desserts: Red Velvet Panna Cotta and Chocolate Upside-Down with plum and almond.

Tickets are almost gone, but a few are left for $70 apiece. Click here to get tickets.

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