What: Belly Pops
Cubes of pork belly braised, fried, tossed in Amelia's BBQ Sauce & served up lolli-pop style
Where: Amelia's Good Food & Drink
7330 Harrison St, Forest Park
How: Chef Greg Houhoulis was inspired during a visit to a restaurant of James Beard Recipient Chef Ken Oringer. He ordered French-Asian fusion spare ribs that had small cubes of something on the corners of the plate, glazed in BBQ sauce. After some tasting and thinking, Chef Greg exclaimed, "Wow, that's crazy! I think it must be pork belly!"
The Belly Pops got their name after Amelia's participated in the "Tale of Two Parks" Craft Beer Pub Crawl in March. Ted Bruson, former host of Chicago's Best, happened to stop by while they were passing around the pork belly on a stick and asked what they were called. Chef Greg described them, but Bruson proclaimed, "They're Belly Pops!"
BACON BIT: At any given time, Amelia's has 2.5 gallons of bacon fat that Chef Greg uses to substitute for oil in certain recipes.
Why: First, there's the crunchy exterior caused by the flash frying. Then, the incredible silkiness from the fat of the pork belly at the same time as a burst of flavor from the BBQ sauce. The sauce seemed to have an Asian influence, reminiscent of teriyaki, but more varied and complex. I tasted it separately from the pork belly, and found the sauce to be much more tangy without the pork to tame it down. Chef Greg is keeping Amelia's BBQ sauce recipe under wraps, since he's worked on it for years and finally perfected it after over 70 trials. It is sweet while also being both salty and savory which compliments the pork belly. Amelia's brines the bellies they get from a small farm in Michigan, then braises them in their famous BBQ sauce. After that, they are pressed to push the flavor into the meat, then chilled before frying. These little Belly Pops are not only convenient, they're addicting! Beautiful packages of handcrafted culinary excitement.
TIP: Amelia's is currently serving their Belly Pops as a special on select days because the process to prepare the pork belly takes three days, so they have a limited supply. Owner Sarah Houhoulis -- wife of Chef Greg -- said customers often call to ask, "Do you have the meat on a stick tonight?"
Online Exclusive: What other pork belly dish do I recommend at Amelia's? Try the BBQ Pork Belly entree! It is slow braised pork belly from "Jake's Country Meats," the same pork belly they use to make their Belly Pops. The pork belly itself is served on a bed of incredibly flavorful Cajun red beans & rice with Andouille, tomato, & organic greens. Keep in mind though, that this belly does not have the crispy texture of the Belly Pops since it has only been braised.
Get in on the bacon conversation and you could win $25*!
Plus, your answers could be published in an upcoming issue of Wednesday Journal!
Alicia wants to know:
What's your favorite local dish made with bacon or pork belly?
Give your answer in the comments section of this post, or any of the Bacon Quest posts on ONE of our sites:
One winner will be chosen at random for each of the three websites. Three winners selected total. Winners comments, and some others, will be published in an upcoming issue of our newspaper. Winners will be contacted at the email used to make the comment. Limit one entry per person. Please only answer on ONE of the three sites.
*Prize is a $25 gift certificate to Downtown Oak Park that can be used at over 75 businesses.
CALLING ALL RESTAURANTS!
Does your restaurant have a bacon or pork belly dish you think could make the cut for Bacon Quest? Tell Alicia and she might consider stopping by on her next adventure!
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org