Recipes and image courtesy of Chef Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants
For the all-purpose pickling liquid
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, and remove from the heat. Strain over the items you are pickling and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the pickles and, for the best taste, let them pickle for about a week before eating. The longer you pickle them, the more intense the flavor will be.
For the braised pork belly
Heat the oven to 300°F. Rub both sides of the pork belly with the salt and lay flat, fat side up, in a baking dish that is just a little larger than the slab. Add the vinegar; it should come about halfway up the side of the meat. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and braise in the oven for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and let rest, wrapped in the foil, until the pork cools to room temperature. Remove from the pan, wrap in parchment and then foil, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
For the final cooking and assembly
Using a Vitamix or high-speed blender, blend the peanuts on medium speed to a fine grind, about 30 seconds. With the blender running, drizzle in the liquid smoke and oil. Turn the blender off, scrape down the sides, and then return to medium-high speed and the mixture will come together into a smooth butter. You need to keep it on medium-high speed, as high speed will heat it and cause the oil to separate from the solids, causing it to “break.” Store the peanut butter, tightly covered at room temperature, for up to 1 month.
Bring the pickling liquid to a boil over high heat. Peel, core, and dice the apple (¼-inch dice) into a small bowl and strain the hot pickling liquid over the top. Discard the solids. Spoon out 2 tablespoons of the pickling liquid to use later and refrigerate the apples until ready to serve.
Heat a grill pan over high heat. Peel the skin and top layer of fat from the pork belly and discard. Cut into strips 3 inches long and ½ inch wide. Pat them dry and brush with the reserved pickling liquid. Season with salt and pepper and grill the pork belly until deep golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip, brush with more pickling liquid, and grill for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter across each plate, top with the pork belly, and garnish with the pickled apples, a little pickling liquid, and a sprinkle of scallions.