SOUTH LOOP — Chef Cory Morris is training for Cochon 555, an international pork cook-off coming to Chicago next month. So every Saturday, he carves up a whole pig and cooks each part differently.
That's great news for pork fans, because he serves them all up at his South Loop restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa.
Craving a specific pig part? Give the chef a ring — he'll hold it for you.
"I have a pig-part chartboard hanging up, and I'll mark how many we have of each," Morris said. "We can usually get four bellies, four ribs, six loins, two shoulders, two legs and a head serving out of each pig.
"As I sell them we mark them off, so you can come in and see what's left, or reserve the piece you want in advance."
Morris said he's enjoying the challenge from a cooking perspective, trying new methods to make less popular cuts more palatable.
"Every piece takes to heat differently," he said. "With the bone-in loin, usually you don't find a lot of flavor in loin. But the way we're butchering it is keeping the bone in and marinating it with rosemary and black garlic. It doesn't have a lot of fat, but keeping it on the bone was a nice move. It has a lot of flavor."
Morris' favorite discovery was his porchetta di testa, or pig's head, in a duck fat confit, though it "wasn't one that sold very well," he said. "Maybe because we worded it wrong: it was 'A sous vide pig face served traditionally.'"
He hopes his customers will adopt his mentality and use this opportunity to try different pork cuts.
"Portion size would probably be the easiest way to decide what new cut to try," he said. "The shoulders and legs will feed four to six people because they are large — I'm getting 50-pound pigs, so they weigh about 5 or 6 pounds after cooking. We do a nice sous vide belly — that would be a nice starter course."
And if you're feeling really adventurous?
"Trust me," Morris said. "Go for the head."
To reserve a table and a pig cut, call Mercat a la Planxa at 312-765-0524.