First things first…Is this a difficult dish to pull off? No. It just takes a while, so don’t be in a rush. With that said, we did it in an hour at World Food Championships in Dallas.
In order to make this dish in an hour, we cut corners by using smoked uncut, slab bacon. Is is traditional pork belly? Kinda. Bacon comes from pork belly, so basically, we started with smoked pork belly.
Another corner we cut was bypassing traditional sweet potatoes. We used frozen, sweet potato cubes sold in many large supermarkets and quickly steamed them in the microwave.
Now that we have the time consuming cheats handled, we need to address the number of ingredients, and there are a lot of them. However, if you have a stocked spice rack (or cabinet, in my case), then you probably have most of the spices already on hand.
Step 1: Pork Belly & the Rub
Once you have your slab bacon cut into 1 1/2 -2 inch thick slices, you’ll need to completely coat them in the rub and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Because the slices are so thick, you will have more bacon fat than usual, so either use a deeper baking sheet or be prepared to drain the fat during the cooking.
The rub is actually quite simple…1/4 cup smoked paprika, 2 TBSP of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cinnamon, 1 TBSP black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Step 2: The Cook
Simply put.. 425 degrees for 45 minutes. Drain the fat at the half way mark so that you don’t start a fire!
After 30 minutes, check the bacon. The fat should be rendering and the meat should be firming up and starting to brown.
When done, remove from the baking pan and allow to cool slightly before slicing into bite size pieces.
Step 3: The Glaze
While the pork belly/bacon cooks, get the glaze ready to pour over the pork while it rests.
In a saucepan, combine 2c. sweet bourbon like Brown Sugar Bourbon, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. soy sauce, 2 TBSP worcestershire sauce, 1 TBSP vinegar, 2 cinnamon sticks, a 1″ hunk of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced), a bay leaf, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 TBSP butter. Bring it to a boil and let it reduce by half.
When the pork is done and resting, pour the glaze over it and let it soak until ready to combine with the gnocchi.
Step 4: The Gnocchi
If you’ve never made fresh pasta, don’t be intimidated. This one mixes up in a flash and is very forgiving.
In a food processor, combine a 10 oz bag of frozen sweet potatoes that you’ve already microwaved until soft, 1 c. ricotta, 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 TBSP garlic powder, and 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour. Blend until a smooth dough forms.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into a long rope and cut into 1 inch, bite size pieces with a knife or bench scraper.
Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float. Remove from water and allow to drain.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
In a skillet, melt 1/2 stick of butter until frothy and lightly browned. Into that skillet, combine gnocchi, pork belly (and a little sauce), and a couple handfuls of baby spinach and kale. Cook over medium heat until veggies wilt, the gnocchi are completely coated, and everything is sizzling.