Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus braising and chilling time for the pork.
Note: Adapted from Chef Judy Han of Mendocino Farms Sandwiches & Marketplace in Los Angeles. The restaurant uses Kurobuta pork belly, also known as Berkshire or black pork; Kurobuta pork is generally available at Asian markets, Vicente Foods in Los Angeles and can be found online at www.berkshiremeats.com. Start this recipe two days before making the sandwiches to allow sufficient time to prepare the pork.
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sake
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
3 pounds skinless pork belly, preferably Kurobuta
1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix together the garlic, ginger, sake, brown sugar and soy sauce in a large, nonreactive, oven-proof pot or casserole. Add the pork and just enough water to cover the pork completely. Cover the pot with 2 layers of foil (and the casserole lid, if using) and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is fork-tender.
2. Remove the pork from the braising liquid and place in a nonreactive dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
3. Cut the pork belly into lardons (1 inch-by- 1/2 inch-by- 1/2 inch). Place them in a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until their edges slightly crisp and the fat is mostly rendered, about 10 minutes. Strain and discard the fat. Set aside the meat; you will have about 4 cups, more than is needed for the sandwiches in the final recipe. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate; reheat before using. The meat will keep for 5 days refrigerated.
1 tablespoon chipotle purée (blended from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
1 cup mayonnaise
Combine the chipotle purée and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. (This makes about 1 cup aioli, more than enough for the sandwiches.)
Pickled daikon and carrots
1 1/2 cups julienned daikon, from a trimmed and peeled root about 8 inches long
1 cup julienned carrots, from about 2 large peeled and trimmed carrots
2 tablespoons salt, divided
1 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar, plus more to taste, if desired
1. Place the julienned daikon and carrots in separate, nonreactive bowls. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over each and gently mix into the vegetables. Allow each to sit for 30 minutes.
2. Rinse the daikon and carrots separately under cold running water until the water runs clear. Shake vigorously to remove the excess water.
3. Combine the daikon and carrots in a medium nonreactive bowl and stir in the rice vinegar and sugar. Taste and adjust the sweetness with additional sugar as desired. Cover and refrigerate until needed; drain the pickled vegetables before using. This makes about 2 cups pickled daikon and carrots.
4 ciabatta rolls, halved
1/2 cup chipotle aioli
1 1/3 cups braised pork belly
1 1/3 cups pickled carrot and daikon
1/2 cup julienned cucumber
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño sliced, more to taste
1. Spread each ciabatta half with 1 tablespoon of the aioli. Divide the pork belly among the 4 bottom ciabatta halves (one-third cup per sandwich), then top with the pickled vegetables. Sprinkle evenly with the cucumber, and repeat with the cilantro. Place 2 to 3 jalapeño slices on each half, or more to taste. Cover each sandwich with the remaining ciabatta bread.
2. Grill the sandwiches using a panini press or on a grill over medium heat and weighted with something heavy (like a cast-iron skillet). Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately.
Each serving:787 calories; 18 grams protein; 64 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 51 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 78 mg. cholesterol; 1,610 mg. sodium.