Smoked pork belly and sweet potato casserole

Smoked pork belly and sweet potato casserole

By
From
Deep South
Serves
4
Photographer
Andy Sewell

The pairing of pork and sweet potato has become canonised in the Southern repertoire and the two ingredients are available at any grocer’s. You’re most likely to find orange-fleshed sweet potatoes but don’t hesitate to choose the older, white-fleshed Southern variety if you come across them. Also, don’t confuse your sweet potato with a yam – a root vegetable that can be very similar in appearance but is much starchier in texture.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the smoked pork belly:

Quantity Ingredient
1kg skinless, boneless pork belly
5-6 tablespoons sea salt
5-6 tablespoons light soft brown sugar
cider vinegar, if needed

For the pecan praline:

Quantity Ingredient
20g caster sugar
100g pecan nuts
A pinch cayenne pepper

For the sweet potato casserole:

Quantity Ingredient
25g unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons light soft brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A pinch salt
1/2 quantity Lemon ice box pie, Italian Meringue
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and halved crosswise

Method

  1. Rub the pork belly generously with the sea salt on both sides and let it rest at room temperature. Once it begins to ‘sweat’, rub it generously with enough brown sugar to coat it on all sides. Place the meat in a smoker and smoke at 110°C for 3–4 hours, until the internal temperature registers 77°C on a probe thermometer. Good smoked meat always maintains a bite, like a great steak; cooking it beyond this temperature would start to break down the collagen too much and dry out the meat. To know what you’re looking (or rather biting) for, it should be tender enough to pull away with your teeth but have just enough elasticity to allow some chew. Cooking it in this way ensures you maintain a certain level of moisture within the meat. Depending on the smoker you use, if you think the meat is becoming dry on the surface, mist it with cider vinegar from a spray bottle. You need to keep a semi-moist surface in order to draw a good level of smoke into the meat. When the pork belly is done, remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes (it can be kept in a warm place for up to an hour).
  2. To make the pecan praline, put the sugar in a heavy-based pan, place it over a medium heat and leave until melted, tilting the pan occasionally so it melts evenly. Raise the heat and cook until it turns into an amber caramel. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the pecans and cayenne, mixing until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread the mixture over a baking tray lined with baking parchment and place in an oven heated to 200°C. Leave for 5–7 minutes, until the pecans take on a light golden colour. Leave to cool completely, then gently break the praline into rough crumbs.
  3. For the sweet potato casserole, melt the butter in a pan with the sugar, spices and salt. Toss the sweet potatoes in this mixture, then nestle them into a deep 20cm square baking tin. Place in an oven heated to 160°C and bake for about an hour, until tender and caramelised, basting every 15–20 minutes with the buttery juices. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes.
  4. Divide the sweet potatoes between 4 serving plates and top with the pecan praline, then a large spoonful of the Italian meringue. Glaze with a blowtorch or under the grill to brown the meringue. Slice the meat, add it to the plates and serve immediately.
Tags:
American
Southern cooking
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