Pork Belly & Banana Leaf Wrapped Rock Cod

I'm on day three of my six day "vacation". I call it a "vacation" since I'm just visiting the family for the holidays (no sunny island getaways). It's nice to get out of LA once in a while, though my blood has thinned and I've been freezing my tushie off. :)

Tonight I cooked for the family. I wanted to make something fun without venturing too far from their normal diet. I made a visit to the local asian market and settled upon a beautifully marbled piece of pork belly (rib in for the extra flavor and meat). To contrast the rich pork, I picked up some fillets of rock cod. I had been dying to try out the whole wrapping in banana leaf thing, so this was exciting for me. Baking the fish in banana leaves is like the "en papillote" method, where the fish steams as it bakes.

I bypassed a shopping trip to get the pork belly into the slow cooker, since it would take a few hours to cook. I sauteed onions, ginger and carrots… deglazed with red wine…added vegetable broth… and left it to work for five hours. Pork belly is the true gluttons dream.

I was able to prep the fish packets in advance also. I went with asian flavors such as ginger, cilantro, soy sauce and sesame sauce. I wrapped up individual-sized packets and they were ready to pop into the oven once dinner time rolled around.

Once the clock struck 9 pm I began. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. Placed my fish packets to bake for 15 minutes. Next I moved onto the pork. I was planning on crisping up the outside. I began by sliding the rib bones out of the pork belly. They came out with such ease… like a hot knife on butter. I cut the belly into individual-sized pieces and pan fried them with minced garlic and diced jalapeno until it had a crispy browned crust. Yum. Stir fried gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and simple steamed, white rice accompanied the meal. We finished with some winter melon soup (compliments of Dad). By the way, I just thought of something… by cooking the fish in banana leaves you avoid the whole fishy stench that sometimes lingers in the air. That's a very good advantage that I highly recommend. I'll definitely be cooking my fish that way again.

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