You haven't done dinner in Portland until you've done dinner at Le Pigeon, James Beard Rising Star Chef Gabriel Rucker's outrageously popular outpost. Combining the usual suspects with something totally unexpected is Rucker's game, so replacing the bacon in a BLT with cured lamb belly is probably just another day in the life…
Erik Van Kley, the sous-chef at Le Pigeon who is now at Little Bird, came up with this lamb belly BLT, a delicious combination of oozing lamb fat, fresh tomatoes and a smoky bacon mayo. As you can guess, this is an intense BLT, so we only serve half a slice per person, as an appetizer. Warning: You have to cure the lamb belly for 3 days before making the dish.
- 4 slices white bread, halved
- 4 leaves crisp baby romaine
- 4 slices heirloom tomatoes
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon pink curing salt
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 lamb belly, about 1 1/2 pounds
- Maldon flake salt
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 4 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- pinch of onion powder
- In a small bowl, stir together the kosher salt, pepper, sugar, curing salt and tarragon to create the cure. Rub the belly all over with the cure; you want to really work it in there. Place the belly in a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 days, turning it over every day to ensure it’s evenly coated with the cure.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Remove the belly from the fridge and rinse with cold water. Pat dry, place in a roasting pan, and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Roast until the meat is easily penetrated with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the belly from the pan and refrigerate while you prepare the bacon mayo.
- To make the bacon mayo, heat the oil in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the bacon has rendered all of its fat, about 12 minutes. It’s ready when the bacon looks like, well, cooked bacon. Strain, reserving the rendered bacon fat for the mayo. Nibble on the cooked bacon as you work.
- Let the rendered bacon fat cool to room temperature (the mayo emulsion will break if it’s too warm). In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard powder and onion powder. Using a whisk and whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the bacon fat into the bowl in a thin, steady stream to create an emulsion. Stop and add a few drops of water when when it starts to look like a thick paste rather than mayo. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Remove the belly from the refrigerator and cut into four equal portions. Preheat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal grill for cooking over medium-high heat, or heat a grill pan on the stove top. Grill the belly pieces, being careful to not let them scorch (if the dripping fat is causing the fire to flare up, move the belly to the cooler side of the grill and cook an extra minute or so on each side). Grill until you have light char marks and the fat is bubbling and hissing, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and season with Maldon salt.
- Toast the bread. Spread bacon mayo on one side of each piece of toast. Add the romaine and tomatoes and top with lamb belly. Add another slice of mayo-slathered bread and serve.
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