Staff Meals: What Cory Morris Eats at Mercat

By Sarah Freeman  |  December 5, 2013

Food envy is a common affliction that happens to the best of us. A hot plate of something delicious comes out of the kitchen, fills the dining room with smells that make heads turn... and is not placed at your table. Suddenly, what you ordered doesn't look as great as it originally did. To ensure food envy doesn't happen to you, we went straight to the experts - the chefs - and asked them which dish on their current menu they would order if they were regular diners.

Serrano ham is a dry-cured Spanish ham that is widely regarded as one of the finest and more expensive hams in the world. It is a common ingredient in tapas, the calling card of Mercat a la Planxa. This means that the restaurant has a surplus of bones from the Fermin Serrano hams that can be turned into stock. In order to incorporate this stock into his new winter menu, chef de cuisine Cory Morris uses it for Cazuela de Puerko, or braised pork belly with rosemary white beans, Serrano jus and Yukon potato espuma.

“I enjoy cooking dishes that trigger positive food memories. When I conceptualized the dish, I knew pork beans was one of my favorite things to eat when I was growing up,” Morris said. He elevated this traditional dish with the use of winter aromatics such as rosemary and the rich Serrano stock turned into jus. The pork belly might seem like a logical addition in a city that thrives on the fatty cut of meat, but Mercat has not featured pork belly on its menu for a few years.

One key element prevents this dish from being the only thing diners have room for during a dinner that is intended to be made up of small plates. Morris incorporated Yukon potato espuma to keep the dish from weighing diners down. “It adds a richness and a light as air texture that you never get with potatoes,” he said. Altogether this Spanish version of a French cassoulet feels right at home on the winter menu.

638 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-765-0524