Zak Pelaccio's Crispy Pork and Watermelon Salad


[Photograph: Michael Schrom]

There's a reason this Crispy Pork and Watermelon Salad is the signature dish at Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Crab restaurants. It highlights the best of Pelaccio's cooking style, combining his love of Southeast Asian flavors with an irreverent American lean.

Not too many so-called salad recipes begin with slow braising pork belly, but that's kind of the best part of this one. Cool cubes of watermelon and pickled watermelon rind are tossed with deep fried chunks of pork belly, and finished off with torn leaves of Thai basil and Vietnamese mint. It's sweet and summery while having a round, porky richness that makes the salad totally irresistible. Oh, and take this salad outside, add a glass or two of off-dry Riesling and the cool sounds of Coltrane and you really can't go wrong.

Recommended playlist and drinks pairing:

Listen: Coltrane, Blue Train—the whole album; it never gets old.

Drink: Selbach-Oster Riesling Auslese 2005

What Worked: There's a reason this salad has been on the menu at Fatty Crab forever, it's a classic.

What Didn't: Pelaccio isn't shy with the chiles and if you subscribe to the same school of thought you might want to add sliced Thai chile or two to up the heat factor.

Suggested Tweaks: We could see this salad working equally well with mellow cantaloupe or even citrus segments.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of 'Eat with Your Hands' to give away.