For someone who truly loathes winter, I do acknowledge one upside to this almost irredeemable season: warming comfort foods. 'Tis the season to roast some chestnuts, brew some mulled wine, stew some meat, and cultivate that bodacious winter bod. If you need a place to start, allow me to introduce my latest recipe.
This dish combines some of my favorite winter produce — chestnuts, Brussels sprouts, and pomegranate — with one of my all-time favorite indulgences, pork belly. To roast the meat, I took a page from Momofuku's book (because, let's be honest, who does pork belly better?) by rubbing it with a liberal amount of salt and sugar and letting it sit overnight before throwing it into the oven. The end result is flavorful, unctuous pork belly that's crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. However, if you're pressed for time or winging dinner like I so often do, you can skip the overnight step and just try to let the pork marinate in the seasoning for as long as possible.
The rest of the ingredients are simply roasted with salt and pepper before getting topped with a rich, luscious, sweet and tangy pomegranate sauce. You can also put your own spin on the dish by using your mushroom of choice (I find that button and baby portobello mushrooms work well, but you can use just about any kind of robust mushroom) and using pre-roasted and pre-shelled chestnuts if you don't want the hassle of peeling.
To me, this dish is comfort food at its finest, and its vibrant colors make it a great choice for both date night and dinner parties. Plus, with just 5 main ingredients, it couldn't be easier to make. If ever you should find yourself at a loss for dinner ideas, let this one come to your rescue. Recipe below.
Serves 4 to 6
2 lbs pork belly
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lb chestnuts
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 lb button or baby portobello mushrooms
For the pomegranate sauce:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Season and rub the pork belly with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar, plus a few dashes of black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut an X into the chestnuts to let steam out while they're roasting.
- Arrange the pork belly and chestnuts in a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil.
- Roast the pork and chestnuts for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the ends off the Brussels sprouts and toss with salt and pepper along with the mushrooms (leave those intact).
- After 30 minutes, take the roasting pan out of the oven and remove the chestnuts and set aside. Add the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, reducing the heat to 275 degrees. Roast for 1.5 to 2 hours.
- While the meat and vegetables are roasting, remove the pomegranate seeds and add them to a deep sauce pan with the balsamic vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a soft boil and then let simmer until the sauce has been reduced by 1/3 (about 15 to 20 minutes).
- While the sauce is simmering, peel the chestnuts (if they've cooled down enough) and set aside.
- Cut the pork belly into squares, arrange on a plate with 2-3 pieces of remaining ingredients, and top with the pomegranate sauce.