Confit Pork Cheeks with Creole Dirty Rice

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2 1/2 lbs pork cheeks, cleaned and trimmed
of all tough membranes
8 cloves garlic
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
Vegetable oil as needed
1 cup flour, or more as needed for dusting
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 recipe Creole Dirty Rice, for serving (see below)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the pork cheeks, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and coriander seeds in a baking dish just large enough to hold the pork in one layer. Add enough vegetable oil to completely cover the pork. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until cheeks are fork-tender, usually 4 to 4 1/2 hours. (Note: this will depend on the size of pork cheeks you are able to procure, so check periodically during the cooking time.)

When the pork is tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the oil. Once cool, remove the cheeks from the oil and pat dry with paper towels. (Oil may be strained and used for another purpose.)

Serve the cheeks hot, with the Creole Dirty Rice.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Creole Dirty Rice

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 lb. ground pork
1/4 lb. chicken livers, puréed
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. finely chopped jalapeño
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 cups cooked long grain white rice
1/4 cup beef stock or canned, low sodium beef broth
Dash of Tabasco, or other Louisiana hot sauce, or to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the butter, onions, and bell peppers and sauté vegetables until tender and lightly caramelized, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the pork and cook, using the spoon to break the pork into small pieces of meat, until well-browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the liver purée, bay leaves, jalapeño, salt, coriander, cumin, and cayenne and cook until liver is cooked through and spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and beef stock and continue to cook, stirring, until well-combined and rice is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and add hot sauce to taste.

Yield: Makes about 3 cups, 4 servings