Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwich with Quick Dill Pickles and Red Onions
2 six-inch white sandwich rolls, split in half
1/2 small red onion, cut into batons
For the pork belly:
3 lbs. pork belly, trimmed into a 5" x 2.5" rectangle
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped1 bay leaf
3–4 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 cups chicken stock or fresh water
For the pickles:
4 medium cucumbers, sliced
1 cup kosher salt
2 big pinches pickling spices (coriander seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns, dry mustard seeds, fennel and cumin seeds, cloves)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
5– 6 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cups water
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
For the BBQ sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 tbsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. mesquite liquid smoke
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed, medium-size pot over medium-high heat. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper. Add oil to the pot and sear the pork on each side to a deep golden brown. Transfer pork to a plate and set aside.
3. Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Add the chopped carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and 2 cups of chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and reduce liquid by about half.
4. Place the pork back in the pot. Add the rest of the chicken stock or water. Bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, place in the oven on the center rack, and let cook undisturbed for about 3 hours.
5. While the pork belly cooks, make the quick pickles: Cover cucumber slices with the kosher salt, making sure the slices are covered on both sides. Let sit for 30 minutes, then wash the salt off and place cucumber slices in a glass or stainless-steel bowl along with the pickling spices, smashed garlic, and fresh dill sprigs. Combine the water, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the pickles from the bowl and lightly rinse them in water to remove the brine. Put the pickles in the refrigerator.
6. Now it's time for the BBQ sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
7. In a nonstick pan, melt a little butter, then add the sandwich rolls. Toast both rolls to a golden brown crust. Set aside.
8. When the pork belly is fork tender, remove it from the oven. With a slotted spatula, carefully remove the pork belly from the pot. In a bowl, combine the pork belly with the BBQ sauce, making sure to cover every inch of the meat. Slather a small amount of sauce on both the tops and bottoms of the sandwich rolls, then place the sauced pork belly on the bottom halves. Add pickles and red onions to each sandwich and cover with the top half of the bun.