Since we were planning a quiet little Christmas dinner, we wanted to do something special yet simple. I've had gratin on my mind for the last few weeks so I took a peek in Mastering the Art of French Cooking for ideas. I found two. One was the master gratin recipe and the second was a recipe for ham and leek gratin. Sections of leek are parboiled in salt water and boil, wrapped in ham, then covered in sauce then baked until beautiful. We didn't have any ham, but we had freshly made bacon. So we went ahead with the idea that we would make the bacon leek gratin and put it on top of potatoes.
After years of wanting to, I finally cured my own bacon at home. I realize that this is almost passé back home where all things bacon became so popular that it's now uncool, but here in Hungary serving and curing food is something that many families embrace as a way of life, certainly not a passing trend.
I conceived the idea that since we were hosting Christmas this year that I would cure my own bacon for our Christmas breakfast. I was very easily able to purchase a beautiful slab of pork belly at the market, about 4 kilos worth, with the ribs still attached.
I then removed the ribs and used them in a Japanese curry, which was amazing. I added the salt, sugar, and curing salt to the belly. I put it all in a bag and kept it in the refrigerator. I turned it every day for a week until it was firm. Then I roasted on low until it reached 150° F.
I sliced off the skin and let it cool, then I carefully wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator to firm up for slicing. A week later, I took the belly to my Italian meat and cheese purveyor at the market and had him slice it on his deli slicer.