The Gilroy Garlic Festival


The Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the largest food festivals in the United States, attracting over 100,000 people each year. One of the main attractions is the Great Garlic Cook-Off where eight finalists from all over the country compete head-to-head in front of a live audience. Contestants are judged on creativity, presentation, ease of preparation, and of course, taste. All eight dishes brought something different to the table, from garlic jelly filled tamales, to garlic pistachio baklava, to garlic cheese cake, but only one person could take home the prize. And the winner is…

Crispy Pork Belly with Caramelized Onion and Fig Agrodolce and Creamy PolentaCrispy Pork Belly with Caramelized Onion and Fig Agrodolce and Creamy Polenta

by Laureen Pittman, Riverside, CA

Serves: 7-8






Ingredients:

Pork Belly

2 rectangular slabs pork belly (1 ó - 2 pounds each), skin removed

(remove the skin only - leave the fabulous fat!)

4 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons coarse ground pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled

1 quart chicken broth

Agrodolce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow or brown onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup honey

7 ounces dried figs, tough stems removed and chopped

1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water (if necessary)

Polenta:

4 cups chicken stock

4 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups polenta (not quick-cooking) or yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Water, if necessary

8 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Method of Preparation:

1. First, prepare the pork belly. Score the fat of the pork belly without cutting into the meat. Rub the salt and pepper onto both sides of each slab. Place the slabs, fat side up, in a 10-12 quart pressure cooker (in a single layer if possible - you can cut them in half, if needed), then pour the chicken broth over the top of the belly. Throw in the unpeeled garlic cloves. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, and then lower the heat to maintain that pressure and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove belly from braising liquid, along with the garlic

cloves; drain and keep warm.

2. While the pork belly is in the pressure cooker, make the agrodolce sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet (12-inch) over medium-high heat, add onions and sauté 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for another 30 seconds. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and syrupy, 30-40 minutes. Keep warm. Add water, a little at a time, if sauce becomes too thick.

3. While finishing the agrodolce, start the polenta. Bring the broth, milk and salt to a boil in a 4-quart heavy pot, then add polenta in a thin stream, whisking. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, 2 minutes, to prevent lumps. Reduce heat to low and simmer polenta, covered, stirring every 10 minutes or so, 45 minutes total. Add the cream and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve. Stir occasionally and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, if necessary, and stir in a little water if polenta thickens too much.

4. To serve, cut the pork belly into 7 or 8 serving pieces. Sear the fat side of the belly in a hot, nonstick skillet or griddle until crispy (45 seconds to 1 minute). Be careful not to burn the fat. Spoon some of the warm polenta onto a serving plate. Top with a piece of the crispy pork belly and a spoonful of the agrodolce. Squeeze a couple of the cooked garlic cloves out of their skins and on top of the agrodolce. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.