Monday, June 18, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Covered Pork Belly Paired with 2009 Delaplane Cellars Virginia Tannat

This weekend I hosted a birthday party for Chef Sue.  For months I tried to decide how to handle this event - surprise party, rent space at a restaurant, or any of a half dozen other options.  I eventually settled on the idea of inviting a group of good friends to our home and use our wine tasting group formula.  It worked perfectly and we all had a wonderful time.

The format for the evening involved each couple bringing a bottle of white and red wines along with an hors d'oeuvre paired with one of the wines.  With nearly 30 people in attendance, we were treated to some great wine and creative food.

For my part, I made a spicy chocolate covered pork belly and paired it with a 2009 Delaplane Cellars Virginia Tannat.  I started with the idea of chocolate covered bacon, then thought "where can I go with this?"  It didn't take long to substitute pork belly for bacon, and add some cayenne pepper to bring a balance of creamy pork fat, the mild sweetness of dark chocolate, and the piquance of the cayenne pepper.

I started by heating oil in a dutch oven until just before smoking.  I seasoned the pork belly and seared on all sides.  I then added enough chianti and a diced onion to just cover the pork belly and put in the oven to braise for 2 hours at 300 degrees F.  When complete, I cut it into 3/4 inch cubes, cut off the skin, and skewered the cubes with tooth picks.  After allowing to cool for 1 hour, I prepared the chocolate by putting a steel bowl over a pot of boiling water, added 86% cacao dark chocolate, 1 tablespoon of butter and gradually added cayenne pepper while whisking until I arrived at the level of spicy heat I had in mind.  I'm guessing it was about 1 tablespoon.  The cubed and skewered pork belly was then dipped in the chocolate, placed on a piece of parchment then off to the fridge to set the chocolate.  This is best served at room temperature, so remove from the fridge about an hour before serving.

I chose the 2009 Delaplane Cellars Virginia Tannat because it is a big full bodied rich wine with strong tannins and wonderful dark berry flavors accompanied by a wisp of oak.  My mental picture of the wine matched perfectly with my pork belly creation - big, flavorful, chewy and dark.  We were rewarded with a wonderful pairing.  The berry flavors and tannins played magically with the deep rich chocolate and sweet pork belly while the cayenne added a fun overlay of flavor.

Sorry for the photography - with an event for nearly 30 people, I was not in a position to set up my typical lighting rig and camera gear.  Instead, we have to make due with a shot from my iPhone.

Happy Birthday Chef Sue.  You survived another year!  And thanks to everyone who shared in the celebration.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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