If I had to choose one meat to cook with for the rest of my life it would be an easy decision: PORK. Duh. That animal is chock-full of delicious bits. Ribs, chops, cheeks. It’s a true nose-to-tail animal that welcomes us to fully take advantage. It has my vote on pork belly alone.
Pork belly is everything. It has a texture like no other cut: half meaty morsel half melty fatty heaven. It’s the mother of all bacon. Rhubarb and pork together is a lovely combination. The puckery tartness marries with the burly pork flavors to create the perfect tasty mouthful.
I served this as a bowl with farro, marinated beans, a scallion slaw, brussels sprouts, and a garlicky carrot-top pesto. I didn’t include all these extra bits in the recipe because what’s so fun and magical about pork belly is that it is the Casanova of meats. It’s a free-loving flirtatious rogue that wants to snuggle up to all kinds of things.
Want a forkless meal? Throw it in a steamed bun or taco. Have it center-stage at a BBQ with all the fixings. Banh-mi party. Moral of the story: you cannot go wrong. The only rules are you do need something acidic on the plate for balance, lots of friends to get messy faces with, and no fancy clothes.
No lie — It’s a full day affair. BUT ridiculously easy and mostly hands-off, the perfect low-maintenance high reward kind of meal.
Rhubarb-Glazed Pork Belly
For the Belly:
- 3-4 LB pork belly skin off(!)
- 2 TB kosher salt
- 4 TB sugar
- 3 TB fresh grated ginger
- 2 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1-2 cups beer (a pilsner or ale is great, just nothing too dark) may sub hard cider
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 large onion chopped
For the Rhubarb Glaze:
- 4 cups chopped rhubarb about 6 large stalks
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 lemon
- 1 TB balsamic vinegar
- pinch salt
For the Belly:
DAY BEFORE COOKING: Place the belly in 13x9 baking dish fat side up.
Combine all the spices, sugar, salt and ginger in a small bowl. Rub the mixture on both sides of the belly, really working it in. Cover with tin foil and place in the fridge overnight.
DAY OF COOKING: PREHEAT OVEN TO 325* and take belly out of the fridge to come to room temp a little.
With a sharp knife, lightly score the fat side.
Add the onion to the baking dish, pour in the vinegar and enough beer for the liquid to come about halfway up the sides of the belly.
Recover the dish with tinfoil, and braise for 3-4 hours. Set a timer and check every hour to see how it's coming along. When it's ready a knife will easily pierce through with minimal resistance and start to come apart.
Remove from the oven and let rest.
**AT THIS POINT YOU CAN PAUSE. (Like if you're having a dinner party, which I hope you are, because this is a lot of meat and belly is meant to be shared..if this is just for you I'm a little concerned but also impressed.) Anyways this is a good stopping point if you're trying to get everything done ahead of time. Clean up the kitchen, finish doing other things, etc. **
TURN THE OVEN UP TO 400* and place oven rack in upper third of oven. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, then place an oven-safe footed cooling rack on top. (If you don't have a rack it's no big deal).
Carefully lift the belly and move it to the sheet, try not to bring much liquid along.
ROAST 20 MINUTES. It's all about getting the top all crispy and browned. So increase the heat if you're not happy with the color.
Now generously brush the belly with rhubarb glaze and put back in the oven for a final 10-20 minutes or so until it's positively glistening, adding more glaze as needed.
Let the belly rest and cool off for a few minutes and don't try to sneak a bite because it's gonna be supa hot.
Slice into large portions and serve with extra glaze. Devour!!
For the Rhubarb:
(This can be done a day ahead)
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, water, and rhubarb. Bring to a boil and then simmer 30 minutes 'til rhubarb is totally soft and broken down.
Take off heat. Zest and juice the lemon into the pot. Add a pinch of salt and the balsamic vinegar.
Store in the fridge covered until ready to use.
**THIS MAKES EXTRA** So don't get your meaty paws in the whole thing! Portion out the glaze for the pork belly as needed.
That way any leftover can be poured over ice cream for dessert OR used as a base for cocktails. A gin and lemonade combo is a good place to start. You're welcome.
- If you can't swing an overnight in the fridge, try to do the dry rub the morning of or at least two hours before cooking.
- Pork belly is surprisingly inexpensive and easy to find at your local butcher. They will also be happy to remove the skin for you.
- Remember! Whatever you choose to do with your pork belly -- make sure there's a good acid to cut through all the delightful fatty richness. A bright vinegary slaw and pickles are the perfect easy partners.
This recipe is part of a series called “The Uglies.” It’s about taking the odd and forgotten bits and giving them some sunshine.