Editors' Picks

Canal House's Pork Belly with Gingery Rhubarb Compote

June 19, 2013

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.  

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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 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • jordan5
  • Chef Ken
    Chef Ken
  • Debra Hendren
    Debra Hendren
  • koechin
  • marlene muzii
    marlene muzii
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


jordan5 February 4, 2014
Rhubarb is not in season right now. Can I substitute cranberries for the rhubarb?
Chef K. July 1, 2013
I forgot to mention that this recipe was great and turned out very well; just as it was written :)
Debra H. June 30, 2013
I'm using your technique to braise although I scored and then added wine and soy sauce as a marinade overnight. Put the onions in underneath before I braised. I'm going to make a cherry coke/hoisin sauce for the crackling portion in the oven. Can't wait!
Chef K. June 24, 2013
The recipe says, "when you can prod it and it sways without resisting" is very vague. I have never heard this expression used in the kitchen. Simpler to say "when it's fork tender."
koechin June 23, 2013
when i grew up in germany, porkbelly was considered poor folks food. like with so many other really hearty dishes the rest of the economic strata has discovered the essential goodness of this type of food. here in southern california i find pork belly at reasonable prices at asian and greman markets, if that helps anyone.
marlene M. June 23, 2013
Pork belly is expensive and sometimes hard to find in the everyday super market I had it at Outstanding in the Field, a farm to table group dinner. The pork belly was served with cannellini beans. It was far better pork and beans and very mouthwatering.
eatwithnamie June 23, 2013
You just made me want to cry...I wanted to devour the photos and then thought I would cook it myself, but realising I can't get either pork belly or rhubarb here in Istanbul, I had to just look at the photos and imagine the taste.
mrslarkin June 19, 2013
Now i want pork belly for breakfast. That would be fine, right?
Emma W. June 19, 2013
I definitely eat breakfast for dinner sometimes, so why not dinner for breakfast!?
Kristen M. June 19, 2013
That's when my grandmother always served it! But she calls it "fresh side".
Alexandra S. June 19, 2013
Yes! Would it be overkill to top it all off with a fried egg ?
Kristen M. June 19, 2013
Yes, in the best way.