[Photograph: Scott Suchman]

Cathal Armstrong serves this "boiling bacon," or brined pork belly, for Halloween, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it in March. It is, after all, comforting enough to tide us through the rocky weather of early spring, and the bright, herbaceous parsley sauce with which it's served has hints of the warm weather to come. Armstrong's recipe in his new cookbook, My Irish Table, takes a few days, but most of the work is hands-off. The belly takes an extended dip in a mustard seed-filled brine before it's boiled until fall-apart tender. A quick trip under the broiler is enough to turn the fat cap from a wan white to a golden crust, giving each bite of the belly a glorious crunch.

Why I picked this recipe: Pork belly isn't often the first protein I turn to when looking for a main dish, but maybe it should be.

What worked: I wasn't sure that a milky, béchamel-based sauce would be the right accompaniment to the rich pork belly, but the copious amount of parsley brightened the sauce so much that it was actually a perfect pairing. I also appreciated that, despite the long curing and boiling time, this pork belly recipe was dead simple.

What didn't: Boiling for 3 full hours resulted in a very soft pork belly. I probably would have preferred it to be a little less cooked. Give the belly a few pokes after 2 hours of cooking, and pull it out when it has softened to your liking.

Suggested tweaks: Since you're not using the brine to preserve the pork belly, you don't necessarily need the curing salt. If you don't want to use it, you can just substitute kosher salt. The pork belly won't retain its lovely pink color, but it'll taste just fine.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of My Irish Table to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.


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