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Canal House's Pork Belly with Gingery Rhubarb Compote

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Pork belly isn't just for restaurants anymore.  

When the pork belly craze swept restaurants across the country a few years back, it accomplished two things -- one of them good: 

1. It reminded us that we can -- and should -- eat pork belly without turning it into bacon first.

2. At the same time, it saddled pork belly with a reputation: for restaurant kitchens only. We assume it's an unfriendly, hard-to-find cut -- one we like a whole lot, but one we'd need to sous vide or put in a fancy bun

But Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton -- from the heavenly place known as Canal House -- are here to take our hands, gently place in them 3 pounds of pork belly, and give us all the secrets to releasing its magic. 

More: See how Tamar Adler stretches a hunk of pork belly to make beautiful meals for days.

Those secrets don't require any special machinery or a food handler's certificate -- they're techniques you already know, or can learn on the fly. You won't be able to whip this up on a whim, but there's not much expected of you, other than patience.


This is all there is to it: The night before you want to serve the thing, you'll score the fatty top layer, criss-crossed, to help the fat melt away. Then you pat it with salt, sugar, thyme, and black pepper and stick it in the fridge overnight. There, you just dry-brined. 

The next day, you'll lay the belly on a bed of wine and onions in a pot and slow-braise it at 250° F for a few hours. (This part will barely warm your kitchen.)


When you can prod it and it sways without resisting, you'll crank the heat to 400° F for about another hour, and the edges will turn into a crackly brown shell.


The last, not-optional step is a compote. You'll gather up a lot of intensely spicy, sweet, and briny ingredients, dump them in a skillet, and add rhubarb till sticky (about 15 minutes). All that vinegar and ginger and spice might scare you a little, but you'd be unwise not to follow them. 


Food52er cristinasciarra put it best: "Once you try this recipe, you will see that the only right, true, and honorable way to eat pork belly is atop a golden raisin-packed, caper-speckled, red pepper flake-laden, brown sugar-laced, gingery rhubarb compote. There is no other way." I'm inclined to agree.

Canal House's Pork Belly with Gingery Rhubarb Compote

Adapted slightly from Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton via Bon Appetit

Serves 6

Pork Belly:

3 pounds pork belly, skin removed, fat intact
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
1 cup dry white wine

Gingery Rhubarb Compote:

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed, sliced 1/2-inch thick

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom 

The Genius Recipes cookbook is here! (Well, almost.) The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites -- all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It'll be on shelves in April, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Tags: genius, genius recipes, pork belly, Canal House, Christopher Hirscheimer, Melissa Hamilton, pork, rhubarb, spring

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