Thursday, March 10, 2011

Soy Braised Pork Belly, Broccoflower Purée, and Curried Butternut Squash Soup Paired with 2009 Travis Chardonnay

2009 Travis Chardonnay with Pork Belly Broccoflower puree and curried butternut squash soup

I nailed the recipe and the preparation!  The wine was outstanding.  The pairing was an utter failure.  I could have saved myself some public humiliation by not even mentioning this little slip.  I may have been better off by just letting this one slip into the mist.  However, there is still some good things to take away from this experience, and besides, I already had taken all this great photography.  I can’t let it go unappreciated.

During our visit to Northern California in January, I had braised pork belly with a jicama slaw at Celadon of Napa.  Specifically, the menu item is “crispy soy-braised pork belly with jicama slaw, Indonesian sweet soy and fresh herbs.”  It was good.  No, it was phenomenal.  It inspired me to make braised pork belly.  And at some point, I will take a stab at my interpretation of the jicama slaw.

This meal is somewhat unique in that it was accomplished without the supervision of Chef Sue, and the recipe for the soy braised pork belly is my own as is the recipe for the curried butternut squash soup.  It may not be fair to call the soup recipe my own – I have watched Chef Sue prepare similar soups dozens of times, and I can now do it in my sleep…which is pretty much what I did.  But I wrote it down, so now it is mine (but feel free to share it with your friends – all the recipes are at the end of this article).

And now, on with the gruesome details.

The Food

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

We started with the curried butternut squash soup.  Chef Sue gave me five stars, two thumbs up, and a kiss for my performance with this soup.  It is good.  The dominant flavors are the curry, buttery squashiness of the squash, and the coconut milk.  The butternut squash hits the umami button and blends seamlessly with the coconut milk.  This is just creamy, smooth, buttery splendifery.  The curry, is a contrasting flavor within the soup that brings a level of intensity to the squash that was just not in its genes.

Broccoflower in milk and Butternut Squash Soup

We then moved on to the main dish which consisted of a layering of textures and flavors.  At the base was a purée of broccoflower supporting the soy braised pork belly which in turn was topped with crispy fried onion and fennel slices.  The bitterness of the broccoflower was a good contrast to the sweetness of the pork belly.  The crispy fried fennel added yet another layer of flavor and texture.  The crispy fried onions added more texture than flavor.

Braized Pork Belly-1

The Wine

2009 Travis Chardonnay-2

Tasting notes from the winemaker:

“Ripe peach, pear, nectarine and exotic fruit aromas. Rich yet lively on the palate, with excellent natural acidity.”

The bright fruits and acidity of this wine make it a real pleasure and easy to enjoy.  This is a wine you could easily enjoy on it’s own, or with any number of seafood or poultry dishes…just not my selection of food for the evening (this is clearly my fault, and not that of the wine).

This wine is an excellent value at $16.

The Pairing

The Travis Chardonnay worked reasonably well with the curried butternut squash soup.  But the strength of the curry demanded something much sweeter such as a Pinot Grigio, Riesling or even a Muscat blend.

When we attempted the wine with the braised pork, all I could think was that “wow did I screw this one up.”  The food was great, the wine was great, but they were never intended to be married – or even date.  Chef Sue quickly ran to the wine rack and grabbed one of the milder Cabernet Sauvignon and it quickly became clear that to compliment the richness, sweetness, and soy, the darker fruits and some spice would make a good pairing.  A bold Pinot, or Shiraz would have made this a memorable meal – in a positive way.

So the real question at hand is why did I screw up?  Here was my rationale for selecting the Travis Chardonnay;  the acidity was intended to balance the sweetness of the pork belly and the bright fruit was intended to compliment the broccoflower.  In the end, the intense flavors of the pork belly overwhelmed the Travis Chardonnay…the acid could not dent the sweetness of the pork belly and the bright fruits were lost – sometimes just feeling out of place when they did emerge.

Again, I want to emphasize that the wine was great.  The food was great.  My powers of wine selection faltered.

Final Words

I will definitely revisit this recipe with a new wine selection.  I will also revisit this wine with a new food selection.  They both deserve better.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup


  • Olive oil (for saute of vegetables)
  • 1 onion, chopped - 2 cups mas o menos
  • 2 lovely cloves of garlic minced with love
  • 1 football sized butternut squash (ok, maybe a bit smaller), peeled (no fun), and cut into 1-inch cubes after raking out the tentacles.
  • 3 - 5 cups chicken or veggie broth (depends on the size of the squash and your preference for viscosity)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons, awe hell, lets make it 2 tablespoons of curry powder - be bold!
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can of coconut milk - god I love this stuff.
  • Plain yogurt (or sour cream in a pinch), for garnish
  • Oh, and put a few green leafy things like parsley or cilantro for a touch more color when garnishing


Coat the bottom of a large pot or stockpot with olive and heat at a medium temp. Invite the onions and garlic to the party and sauté until soft but not brown. Now for the star that you just reduced in stature to mere cubes - the butternut squash is added along with play-dates broth, curry powder and salt. Bring the hot tub to a boil and watch everyone sweat. Reduce heat and simmer until the squash cubes are not sure they want to be cubes any longer (in other words, tender). They usually succumb to this form of torture after 13 minutes or so...butternut squash is no tough guy. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender (the outboard motor looking thing...lots of fun) or in blender (no more than 1/2 full, and hold the top!!!) until smooth. After blending, add coconut milk and bring to serving temperature. Season to taste. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with yogurt and greens.

Soy Braised Pork Belly


  • 1 slab of pork belly...say it with me...a SLAB!
  • 2 cups of pomegranate juice, or orange juice if that is more convenient, awe hell, just pick a juice.
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (ah brown sugar, how come you taste so good)
  • 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 1 fresh squeezed lime
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic - oh yeah!
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup (one small bunch) of minced green onion bottoms (white part only...maybe a touch of the green)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 onion sliced thin
  • 1/2 fennel sliced thin (like onion rings)
  • 2 cups canola (or vegetable) oil


Slide the pork slab, skin down, into a glass baking dish. Don't you just love that we are working with a "slab" of pork belly? How often do you get to play with slabs of things? Whisk together the pomegranate (or other fruit) juice, 1 cup of chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and green onions. Give the pork belly a bath with this mixture...yes, all of it. Let this sit and become happy for about one hour. If you are in a rush, you can go straight to the oven. Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour. Turn the pork belly over and roast for another 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the skin  from the pork (it sounds worse when you say pork rather than onion). Allow the pork to cool in the juice bath mixture stuff until about 30 minutes before you intend to serve. If you cover and put it in the fridge, you can even save the final prep for the following day. If you decided to let the pork belly fully cool or put it in the fridge, remove any congealed fat that rests on top of the cooking liquid. Using a sharp knife, score the fat layer of the pork in a cross hatch pattern, and poor off the liquid from the baking pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan and place in the oven. Cook the pork belly until slightly caramelized on top and warmed through, 20 to 25 minutes. Heat the oil in a sauce pot or mini wok and quick fry the onion and fennel slices. The goal is to make them crisp and just turning brown.


  1. Hello! YAYYY! I've been searching for this recipe ever since I too experienced the absolute oinky ambrosia that is Celadon's pork belly. I'm dying to try cooking it. A couple questions, how many pounds makes up your SLAB, as I'll probably only be experimenting with a couple pounds? Also, I intend to use it as part of an amuse-bouche, so would I wait until it is ready to serve to chop it into smaller bite size pieces? Or chop prior to the last time in the oven? THANK YOU!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I used the term slab because it is fun to say. Slab, slab, slab. But the important point is that the size of the slab is not terribly important; it is more a matter of how many people you are serving. The balance of the ingredients are for bathing the porky goodness and will easily accommodate up to roughly 2 pounds. In my case, I started with a bit over one pound which resulted in 3 healthy servings or four moderate servings. Regarding cutting for serving, save this for last (just before your plate) so you maintain good moisture with crispy edges; a great contrast in texture.



  3. Super! I'll let you know how it turns out, trying it this week!