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Chef Ryan Scott, bestselling cookbook author and two-time Emmy winner, loves to serve "fun" food when he entertains. For the 4th of July this year, the theme is food on a stick. "Everyone loves it!" he says, and since most of the work is done in advance, the cook can relax at the party. Bonus: Once you assemble the skewers, cleanup is a breeze! He starts the meal with his Thai-inspired BLT (braised pork belly stands in for the bacon) skewers and serves these quick and easy Brown Butter Cake Pop Skewers with Berries and Lemon-Ginger Yogurt Dip for dessert.
The BLT skewers are great piping hot over rice or at room temperature with extra Thai-style BBQ sauce on the side. If you want to gild the lily, make a second dipping sauce—Ryan's gingered tomato jam, which Rach says is "The jam!" It's also great spread on burgers and on grilled veggies.
Pro Tips from Ryan: Chilling the pork belly for at least 4 to 6 hours is a must for the proteins to properly coagulate and the fats to firm up so that you can cut the belly into nice cubes for grilling. Plus, since we are using plenty of aromatics in the braise, the flavors really intensify and meld together during that rest time.
For more recipes from our 4th of July episode, check out Rach’s Spicy Chorizo Sloppy Joes and a fun Sugar Cookie Cheesecake Flag Cake.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Place the pork belly skin-side up in a roasting pan with sides higher than the belly (a deep 9 x 13 works well) and set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine the coconut water, sambal, rice vinegar, coriander, mustard, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, ¼ cup palm sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce over high heat. Bring just to a boil, then pour over the pork belly, making sure that the meat is fully submerged.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until the meat gives very little resistance when poked with a knife in the center, 2 ½ to 3 hours. Cool on the counter until barely warm to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to rest overnight or at least 4 to 6 hours. If you're using bamboo, not metal, skewers, place them in water to soak while the meat rests.
Remove the pork belly from the braising liquid and skim off all of the solidified fat on the top. Strain the liquid into a saucepan, reserving ½ cup if you are making the tomato jam, and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of palm sugar and continue reducing over high heat until it's about one-third of the original volume, about 20 minutes. It should taste sweet, spicy and just a little salty and have just a hint of caramelized sugar.
While the sauce reduces, make the tomato jam (if using). Bring all the ingredients to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Continue cooking for 35 to 40 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from scorching. The jam is done when it's thick, shiny and all of the tomatoes have burst.
While the tomato jam cooks, trim the skin and top layer of fat from the chilled pork belly. Cut the belly into 1 ½- to 2-inch squares to match the size of your tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are bigger than the pork cubes, you won't get any caramelization when you grill the meat.) Build your skewers like this: tomato, 2 endive leaves, pork belly, tomato, 2 endive leaves, pork belly.
When the liquid is reduced, in a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the liquid and boil, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove the Thai BBQ sauce from the heat.
Heat your grill (or grill pan) to medium-high.
Brush the skewers with the BBQ sauce and place them sauce-side down on the grill. Baste the skewers with more sauce and continue cooking until the pork is dark brown with a little char and the tomatoes start to blister, 5 to 6 minutes. Baste again, flip the skewers and cook the other side until caramelized, about 5 minutes more. Baste the skewers a final time and serve with more Thai BBQ sauce and the gingered tomato jam for dipping (if using).