For the Pork
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 cups mirin, divided
- 6 cups sake
- 3 star anise pods
- 4 pounds skinless, boneless pork belly
Stir together kosher salt, sugar, 2 cups of mirin, sake and star anise until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put pork belly in a large, non-reactive container and pour in brine. Marinate for 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Drain brine and pat pork belly dry with paper towels. Pour in remaining mirin and cover tightly with foil. Roast pork for 3 hours. Then, remove the foil and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F, and roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let rest for 45 minutes.
Take remaining juices and simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Use as a sauce to drizzle over arepas.
Serve the pork with arepas, sliced scallion, pickled cucumber and hot sauce.
For the Arepas
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for pan-frying
- 1 cup masa harina
- 1 tablespoon Essence, plus more for dusting
- Pinch sugar
- 1 cup milk, hot
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- 1/2 cup grated queso blanco, or mozzarella, plus 1/4 cup for topping
- 1/3 cup chopped roast pork, or chopped smoked ham
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno or serrano peppers
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large, heavy skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, sugar. Whisk in the milk, using as few strokes as possible. Add the bacon grease, queso blanco, roast pork, peppers and garlic and stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the dough. Bring together into a ball.
Using your hands, form the dough into smaller balls and form into smooth patties 4 inches in diameter, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook the arepas in batches until golden, about 6 minutes per side, turning and lowering the heat as necessary if they begin to brown too quickly, and pressing down with a spatula to flatten slightly as they cook. Remove and drain on paper towels, seasoning lightly with Essence. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. Sprinkle each arepa with some of the remaining cheese and serve hot.