Pork belly and almond cream stew with vegan “cheesy” scallion and herb biscuits

So this recipe was actually a part of a collaboration a bunch of us Masterchef contestants did with Imperfect foods a while back! The company, Imperfect Foods, takes the produce that grocery stores and farmers don’t sell due to visual imperfections, and gives them to consumers at a cheaper price, which I adore, being somebody who does not like to waste ingredients much to at all himself. So the challenge was to take their seasonal gift box, which included obviously their produce, but also their imperfect produce snacks, and make a side dish out of it. For mine, I went with an almond and pork belly cream stew, using their imperfect almonds, with a vegan “cheesy” scallion and herb biscuit, using their scallions and anything seasoning. They provided us with cultured vegan butter as well, and with the almond milk that I had made with their almonds, I wanted to just tie in a dairy free theme with the ingredients and make something that could both be a side dish and a sauce, or a composed dish when put together. For the “cheesy” aspect, I went with nutritional yeast, which adds that tangy umami flavor that cheddar cheese would normally have in it.

For the pork belly:
2 pieces of thick cut pork belly
everything seasoning
black pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
the white parts of the scallion
1 bay leaf
3 carrots, peeled and cut obliquely

Mix the pork belly with the spices first. I don’t really use exact quantities for this, but more like a healthy pinch of each. Peel and dice up the shallot and scallion, and then form a bed on a lined sheet tray with that, the carrots, garlic, and bay leaf. Place the pork belly slices on the vegetables and then roast at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes. Finish the pork belly off in a cast iron pan on high heat, just to caramelize the exterior. Reserve all of the vegetables. The garlic will be used in the almond milk, while the other vegetables will be used to form the body of your cream stew mixture. The rendered fat from the pork belly will be used to toast your almonds for crunch, and in the stew as well.

For the stew base:
3 tablespoons reserved pork belly fat
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup savory almond milk*
roasted vegetables
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dandelion greens or whatever green leafy vegetable you have on hand, chopped

In a pot, mix together the pork belly fat and the flour on low heat until combined and a golden brown color. This will be your roux to thicken the almond milk with. Take off heat and whisk in the almond milk. Return to heat and continue to stir on low heat until the milk has been thickened to a “chowder” consistency. Keep warm, and fold in the remaining ingredients right before it being time to serve.

For the almond and pomegranate gremolata:
1 1/2 tablespoons pork fat
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
a pinch of salt

Toast the almonds in the pork fat. Then toss with the other ingredients.

For the savory almond milk:
reserved roasted garlic from pork belly
8oz almonds
16oz water
a pinch of salt

Puree the ingredients together then pour through a sieve to remove any solids. Allow the milk to cool down so that you can use it in both the biscuits and the stew.

For the biscuits:
4 scallions(only the green portions)
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
8 tablespoons cultured vegan butter, kept cold
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon everything seasoning

Trim the scallion stems and slice up the green portion of the scallions. You’ll use the white portion for the stew so that it won’t go to waste! Mix the scallion greens with the almond milk and cider vinegar first and let this sit. These will be your liquid ingredients. In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together first. Then mix into that the vegan butter, salt, yeast, and everything seasoning until you form a crumbly dough. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not overmix, or else your biscuits will be dense and raw in the center upon baking. Pour onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1-inch thickness. Cut out 1 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch by 1-inch blocks of your dough and transfer to a baking sheet. Mix the residual flour you have on the rolling surface with water to form a paste. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the paste. Bake these at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

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