No matter how old you get, some things will always be funny. Farts, for example, are funny. That is not an opinion, it is a universal fact. The less appropriate the setting and the grosser the sound, the funnier the fart is.
Blacked out teeth and drawn on mustaches on people in posters is funny. Let’s do some math; there are 421 subways stations in New York City. Each one has on average, by my estimation, 10 spaces for advertisements and of those ten advertisements at least 4 have pictures of people on them. That means there are at least 1,684 pictures of people in subways stations in New York right now and of those I would bet 1,683 have had the teeth blacked out and mustaches penned on by hilarious vandals city wide. It could not be less original and there is a reason for that. Early man started doing it on cave walls millennia ago, legionnaires did it throughout the roman empire and angsty teenagers have done it on city walls ever since because it’s just funny. Always has been, always will be.
Animals yawning, people falling (but not seriously injuring themselves), when someone’s voice cracks and the very existence of non-alcoholic beer round out the list of things that are just inherently funny.
Just as these things are without question, in their nature funny, some foods are just good. It’s not a matter of preference, it’s a matter of unequivocal, universal, undeniable goodness.
Pink Starburst, for example, are good. If you encounter someone who finishes a sleeve of Starbursts and leaves the pink ones behind report him because he’s either a communist or a cyborg and either way, the government needs to know.
Guacamole is delicious and French fries are perfect whether you’re in a suit at a fancy restaurant or wearing nothing but socks lying in bed. Why? Because they’re just good. Atop this pantheon of good foods sits the pig, and atop the pantheon of best parts of that pig is its belly. Cured, smoked, braised, confited or roasted, pork belly is good. This is how I pay it tribute.
Fideos with Pork Belly, Ribs and Stuffed Shisito Peppers
Fideos are a Spanish pasta preparation wherein very thin dry noodles are toasted in oil before being boiled. Here we’ve bumped up the flavor by adding chorizo and cooking the pasta in pork belly braising liquid. The belly itself is paired with ribs (because why not?) and braised in a sweet and acidic sauce. The lone situation in which pork belly isn’t delicious is when its fattiness is not handled properly. Acidity cuts fat and makes it more palatable and sweetness mellows harsh acidity creating a magnificent flavor trifecta (or trinity if you’re feeling religious).
Finally, it’s all topped off with another Spanish classic, the stuffed pepper. To mix things up we’re using shisito peppers. For whatever reason these little guys have found their way into every menu in New York City this year and they are served the same way every time; charred in a screaming hot pan and then salted. Occasionally they are finished with lemon or lime but beyond that, variations do not exist. Their subtle heat and unique flavor make them the ideal pepper for stuffing, though their size and shape does not. Hollowing them out enough to get the stuffing in there is a bit of a chore but worth it in the end.
∙½ pound Spanish chorizo
∙Splash olive oil
∙½ pound Fideos pasta or Capellini broken into 3 inch pieces
∙2 cloves garlic-Minced
∙Small spoonful tomato paste
∙Big shot Spanish paprika
∙1/4 cup sherry
∙About 2 cups braising liquid
Put the chorizo in a large pan with steep sides over medium-high heat. Cook until golden and much of the fat has rendered. If there is enough fat in the pan to coat all the pasta, skip the olive oil, otherwise add it and the pasta, garlic and shallot. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring very often, until the pasta is golden. The pasta will go from toasted to burnt quickly so be careful. When it is golden, add the tomato paste and paprika and cook a few moments longer. Add the sherry and scrape up the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sherry is fully evaporated. Next, add the stock in 3 installments, stirring constantly and adding the next when the first is almost evaporated. When the last of the stock has been added, cook until the pasta is tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.
∙Big splash olive oil
∙2 cloves garlic-Thinly sliced
∙1/4 cup cubed day old bread
∙1/4 cup almonds
∙1/4 cup hazel nuts
∙1 bunch assorted herbs such as chives, cilantro, parsley, mint and basil
∙Small pinch saffron threads
∙Big pinch red pepper flakes
Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to toast. Add the bread and cook until golden. Allow to cool and put in a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Buzz until smooth, drizzling in a little more olive oil and some water to thin it out.
∙1/2 pound pork belly
∙1/2 rack pork spare ribs
∙1 onion-Cut in half
∙1 head garlic-Smashed
∙1 bunch thyme
∙3 bay leaves
∙1 pound pork bones
∙1 cup dry red wine
∙1/4 cup sherry vinegar
∙1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
∙1/4 cup honey
Cut the pork belly into manageable pieces and place in a large pot skin side down. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the skin has begun to brown. Turn the pork belly pieces so that each side sears until they are brown all over and much of the fat has rendered out. Place them skin side down again so that it can brown some more in the rendered fat. When the skin is crispy, remove the belly from the pan. Cut the rack into 2 rib sections and add to the pan to brown in the fat. When well brown, strain as much fat from the pot as possible and reserve. Return the belly pieces to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and braise until the ribs and belly are tender, about 2 hours. When they are ready, remove the meat from the pot and chill the refrigerator. Strain out the vegetables and reserve 2 cups of the liquid for the fideos. Return the rest to the pot and simmer until thick. Meanwhile, put the wine, vinegars and honey in a separate pot and reduce until thick. Combine with the reduced stock and continue to simmer until it reaches your desired consistency. Strain through a fine strainer and set aside. Heat some of the reserved fat in a large pan and return the cooled pork belly pieces to it, skin side down. Cook until the skin is crispy and remove from the pan. Slice into service pieces and place in a warm oven to finish heating through. Meanwhile, warm some of the sauce in a large pan and add the ribs. Cook until glazed and warm through.
∙1/4 pound Spanish chorizo
∙1/8 pound Manchego cheese
∙1 dozen shisito peppers
∙Splash olive oil
Brown the chorizo in a pan and allow to cool. Mix with the cheese. Cut the stems off of the peppers and cut away the small white vein blocking entry. Stuff the chorizo and cheese mixture into the peppers. I used a chopstick to force it in. When the peppers are stuffed, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the peppers. Sautee until they start to brown and the stuffing is heated through.
Stir the picada into the fideos and pile some into the center of a bowl. Arrange some of the pork belly on one side and the ribs on the other. Arrange the peppers on top and serve with some of the sauce on the side for dipping.