EDITOR’S NOTE: Leading up to Thanksgiving, The Santa Monica Daily Press has complied a series of seasonal recipes from several local restaurants. The following features Brad Miller from Ox & Son.
Chef Brad Miller’s maple glazed pork belly is an example of his very specific vision for winter cooking.
“This recipe incorporates everything that is winter: Pork fat, maple syrup and squash,” he said. “It’s perfect for the holidays and a great start to the beginning of a great dinner.”
As executive chef of Ox & Son and Ashland Hill, Miller recognizes the importance of seasonal influences but he said he also acknowledges the unique situation of cooking winter food in a place where November temperatures can reach into the 70s.
“The seasons tell me what to cook and how,” he said. “During the winter, I prefer more comforting foods for the cooler temperatures, but it varies, and I like to keep my winter food comforting but not too heavy. Here in SoCal, I might go lighter one day if it’s hotter outside.”
He said Santa Monica’s influence extends beyond weather.
“Santa Monica is a very family and neighborhood-friendly city, and I believe that’s what the holidays are all about,” he said. “Living here feels like we’re all one big family.”
For Miller, that sense of family is key to the holiday season.
“When I think of the holidays, I think of family first, and food is always my second thought,” he said. “For me, the characteristics of holiday food are really anything aromatic. The smell of the cinnamon and spice in mulled wine or cider, or the mixture of honey and brown sugar baking onto a ham.”
He said home cooks tend to take on more than they can chew in the kitchen. He recommends keeping the menu simple with a few variations on traditional items that are not overwhelming. He also recommends using food as a way to build intergenerational bonds.
“Cook what your parents and grandparents cooked,” he said. “It brings tradition to your family and brings back those wonderful childhood memories of the holiday season.”
Maple Glazed Pork Belly with Winter Squash Puree & Sea Salt
Makes 8 portions
FOR THE PORK BELLY:
2 pounds uncured belly or unsmoked bacon, cut into 4 oz. pieces
Cook in pork stock, 8 oz. maple syrup and aromatics for 5 hours in 350 degree F oven
Cool and score the fatty top of the meat
FOR THE SQUASH PUREE:
1 pound cooked pumpkin flesh (or any sweet squash will work)
Peel squash, cut it in half and roast in oven (covered) for 1 hour at 350 degrees F
4 oz. butter
2 tsp. pumpkin spice
1/4 cup pork cooking liquid
1 tbsp maple syrup
Puree all ingredients in the blender on high until a smooth consistency forms
Sear the portions of pork belly until golden. Drizzle a little maple syrup atop each piece and finish in a 375 degree F oven until hot in the center of each piece. Finish with more maple syrup before serving.
On the plate: Serve the Maple Glazed Pork Belly with the puree in a nice glass jar. Garnish with fresh herbs.