Thursday, November 30th, 2017...10:44 pm

Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Jump to Comments

I’ve always struggled with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome, not gastrointestinal distress/bloating lol). It’s reared its head with basically any interest I’ve had, be it photography, pottery, and – of course – cooking. One of the fun (but space and resource consuming) things about cooking and where my interests lie is that there is such a wide range of techniques (and accompanying equipment!), and that’s just with the cooking and baking, let alone the couple years that I spent hardcore nerding out on cocktails and other drink-related techniques.

Apart from the dehydrator that I recently picked up at a friend’s yard sale, I also recently came into possession of two other pieces of kit that I’ve been eyeing for a long time. One is a stovetop pressure cooker (which I talked about here), and the other is an air-fryer. A bunch of family members and friends own air-fryers, and they all wax lyrical about them at any given opportunity, but I am often incredibly reluctant to procure new equipment that will take up more of what precious little counter space I have, and they tend to occupy a fairly large footprint for the capacity of the cooking basket. But, when I was in Singapore last month, my mother and I found a relatively small unit (with almost the same fryer basket capacity), and it was on sale, so…I’m sure you can see how the story goes.

And, you guys, these two new additions have been such game changers. I never really have an issue with dishes that require a long (especially when largely unattended) cook time, like braises or stews, but being able to cut the cook time down to a tiny fraction has been super convenient. It’s especially upped my batch cooking game, as I can now do multiple stews or traditionally long-cooked dishes all in the span of one afternoon, divvy it up, and bag it individually for the freezer. Stocks and soups especially come together so much faster than when slowly simmering away, and if allowed to cool naturally, are almost perfectly clear since you don’t have to worry about moderating the heat to keep them at the gentlest of simmers in order to avoid any emulsification. It’s also been especially handy for beef or veal stocks, which would ideally be left to simmer overnight in an oven, but that’s not been an option for me since I’m stuck with a counter-top glorified toaster oven that needs to have its timer reset every two hours.

And before anyone dares suggest that these toys are things I’ll play with and quickly lose interest in (which, okay, full disclosure: that’s a totally plausible outcome hah), I will have you know that I’ve not just been using all my recent acquisitions pretty regularly, I’ve even managed to combine them. Such as in this pork belly dish, where I pressure-cooked some pork belly as per this Chefsteps recipe, chilled and sliced it, and then finished it in the air-fryer for a crispy almost deep fried finish, but with a fraction of the mess and minus the hassle of having to deal with leftover deep frying oil. And you know what? This recipe is super quick and also comes together really quick if you have all the equipment, but can totally be replicated if you only have one of the two, or even none of these appliances. (Just adjust the amount of liquid and cook times if you’re braising the pork belly sans pressure cooker, and use a generous amount of a neutral flavoured oil to shallow or deep fry the pork slices to crisp it up.

Alright, with that, it’s probably time for me to start thinking about how I can bring my immersion circulators back into steady rotation!

Crispy Pork Belly

400g pork belly, ideally in one piece, but two slabs will do too
sea salt
1 small brown onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp peppercorns (I used pink here, but white or black will do too)
200ml shaoxing wine (white wine or stock will work too)

Generously season pork with sea salt. Thinly slice onion, peel and smash garlic cloves. Scatter in the bottom of your pressure cooker, add peppercorns, shaoxing wine, and lay the pork belly over the aromatics. Bring to a boil over high heat, then seal your pressure cooker, and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.

Quickly depressurise the pot using the steam-release valve, and remove the pork belly and allow to cool. The vegetables can either be discarded, or the liquid can be reduced, seasoning adjusted, and they can be reserved as a savoury, porky onion jam to be served on the side. If time permits, chill the pork before slicing (when cold, the pork will be firmer and easier to slice neatly, but it’s not necessary). Pork can be cooked in advance and stored, well wrapped, in the fridge for 2-3 days.

When ready to serve, slice pork into roughly 1cm thick slices. Air-fry at 200ÂșC for 7-8 minutes, or until deep golden brown all over. Serve over steamed rice garnished with spring onions, or freshly grated lime zest.

Leave a Reply