When I was younger, I was obsessed with Elvis Presley. Okay, I still am. But back then my imagination was so ripe, I could picture myself on the the brightly decorated sets of his formulaic movies, befriending costars like Shelly Fabres. Shelly would ask “Libbie Marie (I would, of course, change my name) what did you and “E” do last night” and I would fill her in on all the exotic fun a sheltered ten year old could dream up for a date with the king. 

Those were the innocent thoughts that filled a young heart. And these are the flavors, in honor of a first crush –my king, that satisfy an adult appetite. Libbie Summers, The Whole Hog Cookbook (Rizzoli)

The King’s Belly Sandwich 
(Pork belly, Peanut butter, Banana butter)
Serves 4

What you need:
1 pork belly piece (about 1 pound)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 fresh bay leaves, torn
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups local honey
2 cups soy sauce
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
4 sandwich rolls

What to do:
Prepare pork belly by removing skin if still intact. Carefully trim it away by pulling up an edge of the skin with one hand and running a sharp knife between the fat and the skin.

Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high heat and place trimmed pork belly in, fat side down. Sear until browned on both sides and the fat begins to render (approximately 5 minutes). Remove the seared belly from the pan and pour off all the rendered fat. Reserve rendered fat for later use. Set skillet aside.

Preheat oven to 225º F.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of reserved rendered pork fat. Add  garlic and bay leaves and season generously with pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the smell becomes quite pungent (approximately 3 minutes). Stir in honey, soy sauce and 4 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring, until honey dissolves.

Return the pork belly to the cast-iron skillet, fat side up. Pour the garlic-honey mixture over. Bring the liquid to a simmer and place in preheated oven. Bake the pork belly, basting it occasionally with the pan liquid, until tender (approximately 2 1/2 hours). Turn pork belly over half way during the baking time. Once tender, remove belly from the skillet and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together mashed bananas and remaining butter.

To Assemble:

Slice cooked belly into 4 equal pieces.

Divide natural peanut butter evenly among four sandwich roll bottoms and spread to cover. Top each with a slice of pork belly and a generous helping of banana butter. Place top bun on each sandwich. Serve warm. Elvis apron optional.

Recipe by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

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